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Japan-China Co-Production Treaty at Advanced Stage

Japan and China are to improve cultural connections. A co-production treaty between the two neighbors, and sometime rivals, is now close to being signed, and there are proposals for both countries to increase festival screenings of each other’s films.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary, said that negotiations on a bilateral treaty had begun last year. Speaking Thursday at the Tokyo International Film Festival, he said that those negotiations are now largely complete.

Nishimura gave no timetable for signature, ratification or implementation. But he made repeated reference to the large-scale film “The Legend of the Demon Cat” (aka “Kukai”), which is directed by China’s Chen Kaige from an original Japanese novel.

Bilateral co-production treaties usually mean that films can have two nationalities, allowing them to access support and finance mechanisms of both countries, and being considered as a domestic film in each. In countries with restrictions on foreign films, including China, that means exemption from quotas and import fees.

At the event, also attended by members of the Japanese parliament and Kadokawa group chairman Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, plans for three Chinese cities to screen a selection of nine Japanese movies were revealed. A three-day screening series will be held Dec. 1-3 in Shanghai. Similar events are subject to confirmation in Kunming and Shenzhen.

The selected films are all premieres in China. They include Naomi Kawase’s “Radiance,” Masanori Tominaga’s “Pumpkin and Mayonnaise,” and Koji Shiraishi’s yet-to-be-released “Impossibility Defense.”

A similar selection will travel in the opposite direction in March next year. Events will be held in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Titles for the screening series were not revealed, though it was confirmed that at least three major Chinese films – blockbuster “Wolf Warriors II,” John Woo’s “Manhunt” and “Demon Cat” – will get commercial releases in Japan in 2018.

Both screening series are backed by the Shanghai Film & TV Festival Company, UNIJapan and the Japan Foundation.

The show of political force at the Tokyo festival was impressive. It came as China and Japan this year officially celebrate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations. In reality, political and diplomatic relations are fluid, with tensions from issues such as territorial claims and possible changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution spilling over into the cultural sphere.

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