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Yoji Yamada nurtures Japan’s next generation in ‘Kyoto Story’

Kyoto Story
‘Kyoto Story’
TOKYO (TR) – Famed Shochiku helmer Yoji Yamada passes on the art of filmmaking to Japan’s next generation in “Kyoto Story,” his collaboration with co-director Tsutomu Abe and a team of university students.

Yamada (“Twilight Samurai” and “The Hidden Blade”), Abe and 22 students from Ritsumeikan University College of Image Arts and Sciences teamed up on the film, set in Uzumasa, one of Kyoto’s most historic areas.

“How one goes about teaching filmmaking is a common point of discussion nowadays,” said the 79-year-old Yamada of the film following a press screening at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan last week. “If you teach painting, of course you draw. If you teach music, you ask students to perform. So naturally, if you want students to understand filmmaking you must ask them to make a film.”

Abe said that the film industry is not the same as when he was young, a time when gaining knowledge was similar to theft. “I learned in the studio,” he said. “This is exactly why we came up with this project – to give students an opportunity. I do believe that the time is now to pass on these skills to the younger generation.”

Yamada said that it is one of the biggest problems facing the industry. “How do we nurture the next generation of cinematographers, lighting technicians, art directors, production designers and prop masters?” he asked.

The film tells the story of Kyoko (Hana Ebise), who is a librarian at Ritsumeikan and caught between two men. One lives next door and is the son of a tofu maker who wants to be a comedian. The other is a visiting academic at Ritsumeikan.

“Kyoto Story” screened at this year’s Berlin Film Festival Forum of Young Cinema and the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

The film is also something of a tribute to Japan’s former capital. Yamada included some of the locals of the area in the script, such as the couple who run the tofu store in the Uzumasa shopping arcade.

The director said that he hopes that, like filmmaking, such trades can also be passed on. “When they (the couple) said that they cannot impose their wishes on future generations, I was disappointed,” the director said. “I wanted them to say that their son would take over the store so that the shopping street can continue to exist and thrive for future generations.”

“Kyoto Story” opens September 18 in Tokyo and Osaka.