Tow by the River(temtative)

Kana Tomoko Wins
Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award

The Sundance Institute (a non-profit organization run by the actor/director Robert Redford) International Filmmakers Awards were announced on January 27, 2007 in Utah at the Sundance Film Festival. Four emerging movie directors from Japan, the United States, Argentina and Iceland received the awards.

The Winners in 2007

  • Europe

    Director: Dagur Kari
    (Iceland, far right in photo)
    The Good Heart
  • U.S.A.

    Director: Caran Hartsfield
    (U.S.A., second from right)
    Bury Me Standing
  • Latin America

    Director: Lucia Cedron
    (Argentina, second from left in photo)
    Cordero de Dios (Lamb of God)

  • Japan

    Director: Tomoko Kana
    (Japan, far left)
    Two by the River

Comment from Kana Tomoko

Surprising Award

The screenplay of a narrative film I wrote won an award at the Sundance Film Festival. I went to America at the end of January 2007 and attended the awarding ceremony in Salt Lake City.

The Sundance Film Festival was started by the actor Robert Redford about 25 years ago after the production of a film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in an effort to discover talented moviemakers. Many moviemakers including Quentin Tarantino were recognized at this festival and later became famous worldwide.

Film festivals generally judge finished movies and the Sundance Film Festival is no exception. However, it also has a special award called the Sundance/NHK International Filmmakers Award, which looks at screenplays that are written for possible film production in the future.

This is the award I have received. Winners are chosen from four regions around the world (North America, Latin America, Europe and Japan) every year, with one person picked from each region. They are entitled to guaranteed TV broadcast on the Japanese public broadcaster NHK and are able to receive various support for the production of the film. More than 100 contestants participated from Japan last year and I was able to make it to the final screening.

I knew about this award from about 10 years ago but I have lived my life as a documentary filmmaker. Therefore, I never thought that I myself would be making a regular film. But suddenly, I thought about writing a screenplay based on a real incident and the piece I wrote called Two by the River (tentative) won the award. I had never even imagined the work I wrote would pass the three selection stages and make it to the final selection, so I was jumping in joy when I heard the news.

Visit to America

I went to the United States to attend the ceremony in January 2007 but the visit was not only for the ceremony itself. I spent five days meeting people from distribution and production companies in America and Europe as well as filmmakers around the world. The world of movies was completely new to me because my background was in television. So I sought advice from various people in the movie industry, including movie director Hirokazu Kore-eda who is a friend from my college days. Kore-eda is a person who gave me the opportunity to start my career in documentary making. And I headed for Utah with proposal documents I hurriedly wrote up in two weeks.

I have attended several documentary film festivals in the past but I found the Sundance Film Festival to be a truly stimulating experience. In the many meetings with foreign companies that were scheduled from mornings to evenings, we talked about the possibility of film production in the future and ways to improve the screenplay based on the translated version of my screenplay. I continued to talk to many people mostly in English without the help of an interpreter, and so I was exhausted by the end of each day. I love going to parties but I had absolutely no energy to go to the parties which were scheduled.

I was worried that a story which takes place in Japan and depicts the bright side and the dark side of the Japanese society may not be appreciated. But I was relieved to find out that it was generally welcomed. Following the advice I heard during the festival and the help got from many people, I will continue to pursue my aspirations in filmmaking.

Sailing the Great Seas

I expect lots of hardship and difficulty, because I am about to embark upon the production of a narrative film and that is something I have no experience in. The screenplay, the money, the cast and the production ?my worries are endless but I love new challenges. I have always gone forward with things that interested me such as environmental issues, wars and international relations. But this new challenge is something I have never experienced.

Among the works which have received the NHK award, many of them later became internationally acclaimed after they were produced into films. I see them as my goal for now.