Veteran Japanese theater company Village Inc. is in Berlin to make its first move into the international movie business. With 14 feature films under the belt of its Geki Cine subsidiary, however, Village is hardly a newcomer to filmmaking.
Village and Geki Cine are seeking to introduce European audiences to their particular brand of stage (“geki”) film.
Berlin buyers get a chance to see for themselves Feb. 13 with the EFM screening of “Legacy of Soma-Aonoran,” a romance-action-drama about a female former warrior and a bungling, but well-intentioned samurai.
For over 35 years, the company’s core business has been the production of elaborate stage plays that use the Village stable of artists and tour big city venues in Japan for limited runs that each earn tens of millions of dollars.
In order to take the shows to audiences further afield, the company started filming the plays. After roughly a decade, Geki Cine has come up with a particular formula, which ensures that the resulting movies are cinematic.
Performances are filmed twice over with 20 HD cameras, giving footage from 40 camera positions and plenty of visual and editing options. A high-quality sound mix, post-production and visual effects are largely sourced in Hollywood. Many are co-produced with Japanese movie major Shochiku.
And while most of the cast is made up of Village artists, the filmed performances are spiced up with established movie stars. “Soma” stars Kenichi Matsuyama (“Death Note,” “Gantz”) and Taichi Satome (“Zatoichi”) and like all of Geki Cine’s movies, is directed by company founder Hidenori Inoue.
“What we want to do now is to engage with international audiences, connect with fans and maybe complete some rights deals,” says Hiroyuki Hata, a former London resident who heads the company’s international operations.
“Right now buyers and festival programmers may not know how to classify our movies. So what we really need to do is to get people to experience for themselves, and for them to spread the word.”
The company produced one other movie last year, “Asura.” And it is close to touring the sumptuous “Midare Uguisu,” before reinterpreting that for the big screen later in the year.