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Japan’s CoFesta unites film, TV, gadgets, and games

The logo for CoFesta
CoFesta brings together a series of events from such industries as manga comics, animation, broadcast programming and video games

TOKYO (TR) – Japanese pop culture exports — from Gundam robots to “Godzilla” pics to Sony PlayStations — have never been promoted as a single entity. Until now.

Co-sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Japan Intl. Contents Festival (CoFesta) has brought together a series of events from such industries as manga comics, animation, broadcast programming and video games to promote the latest in Japanese coolness to the world. It also includes Tiffcom, the Oct. 22-24 Japanese film market.

“An integration of such a variety of content is unprecedented,” says Tomoharu Ishikawa, a director of CoFesta, which expects to end up attracting 1 million visitors to its 18 events.

CoFesta, whose reach extends throughout the Tokyo area over 40 days, kicked off Sept. 20 with the Tokyo Game Show, where 217 companies displayed 720 software titles and pieces of videogame hardware to nearly 200,000 visitors.

Other CoFesta expos have included CEATEC Japan (presenting developments in digital communication and content distribution) and the Japan Animation Contents Meeting, in which Tokyo’s geek paradise of Akihabara, a huge shopping area for electronic, computer and anime goods, provided the setting for animation industryites to discuss new ideas.

At September’s opening ceremony, where a host of celebrities in media-related fields gave their thoughts on the imaginative spirit in Japan today, helmer Yoji Yamada (“Twilight Samurai”) emphasized that the monetary element in artistic endeavors should not be overlooked.

“While it is important for a film to move a person’s heart 30 or 40 years after it has been made,” the director said, “from the beginning, the film itself is a business.”

Exemplifying this point is CoFesta’s Tiffcom. In its fourth year, the international marketplace for Japanese film-related products coincides with the Tokyo Intl. Film Festival. Organizers are expecting 4,000 visitors (33% more than last year) to flock to the event’s 150 booths, which will showcase films, TV programs, publications and character goods.

The target region is Asia, but North America and Europe are key as well, Tiffcom director Keiji Hamano says.

“We would like to be the No. 1 market in Asia,” Hamano says of Tiffcom, which trails the Hong Kong Filmart in annual attendance in Asia. “Japan is the second-largest film market next to the U.S. But China and India are both growing faster and faster. Japan cannot be lax, or it will be left behind.”

Tiffcom’s Casting Forum, which will discuss how to increase the exposure of Japanese actors and actresses globally, will be partnered with a lunch that will introduce Japanese talent agencies to agents from around the world.

Returning to Tiffcom for its third year is the Tokyo Project Gathering (TPG), a co-production market that allows one-on-one meetings between financers and filmmakers from around the globe. This year, five animated works will be among the 38 projects, up 10 from a year ago.

Prominent contributions include “Ugetsu,” helmed by Japan’s Shinji Aoyama (“Sad Vacation” and “Eureka”), and “Virgin Camelia” by Hong Kong’s Vincent Kok (“Dragon Loaded” and “Super Model”).

“I hope that we can be a beginning,” says Hamano. “After TPG, a project might start production. Then one or two years later, it will be shown at TIFF. That kind of circulation is very important. Young directors and producers can have an opportunity to grow.”

CoFesta’s organizers realize that its diverse components pose a challenge. “We are orienting and uniting different businesses in a single direction,” says CoFesta’s Ishikawa. “But it will be a great achievement to give birth to something new.”

Note: This story originally appeared in the October 22nd issue of Variety.