Vol. 4, No. 9 (July 18, 2008)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.
|Working session during the G8 Summit in Toyako, Hokkaido|
This year's Group of Eight (G8) Summit was held from July 7 to 9 at Toyako, Hokkaido, Japan. As chair of the Summit, Prime Minister Fukuda welcomed the leaders of 7 other nations--the U.S., Germany, Canada, France, Italy, Russia and the U.K.--and the President of the European Union. This was the fifth time Japan had held Presidency of the Summit. (For more information, please see the Chair's Summary, Prime Minister Fukuda's press conference following the Summit, and the archive of documents on the official G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit website.) The following is the most recent issue of Prime Minister Fukuda's e-mail magazine, which provides a brief overview of the Summit :
|Prime Minister Fukuda and President Bush at the Joint Press Availability (Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office)|
On July 6, the day before the G8 Summit officially began, Prime Minister Fukuda held a summit meeting with President Bush. They discussed topics such as the deepening of the Japan-U.S. alliance, the issue of North Korea, the situation in Asia, climate change, and the strengthening of Japan-U.S. cooperation on development in Africa and disaster prevention. (For more information, please see the text of Prime Minister Fukuda and President Bush's joint press availability and the Japan Brief article discussing the bilateral meeting.)
-by Ikuko Hamada
(Embassy of Japan)
|A scene from "Road to Away Game," one of the Japanese short films that were shown|
Rarely does one have a chance to visit multiple embassies, but film lovers in DC had such an opportunity for two weeks in June. Back for its third year, the Asian European Short Film Showcase was more diverse than ever and screened films in six different embassies and cultural centers. Focusing this year on the theme "Crossing Borders," the Showcase featured over forty short films from Japan, Korea, China, India, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Over the course of two weeks, pairings of Asian and European short films were screened on eight evenings, followed by a discussion addressing the films' cultural context and topics.
The films screened at the Showcase put forward issues relating to crossing borders in each country: a topic that is of interest in all countries, including the US. This theme was interpreted in a variety of ways, including the literal crossing of national borders, such as a young Muslim boy accidentally crossing the Pakistan-India border in Little Terrorist, and a German man figuratively crossing a border by secretly wearing pantyhose and women's lingerie in Mr. Wunderlich Private. There were also multiple borders crossed in a single film such as The Day Winston Ngakambe Came to Kiel, in which African missionaries arrive at a north German beach to "civilize" the Germans, and Little Fish Killer, in which a scientist tries to become invisible to spy on his neighbor. With films from eight different countries offering as many choices as an all-you-can-eat restaurant, the Showcase satisfied everyone's taste.
For those who enjoy a straightforward approach to the theme, the evening featuring films from Japan and Italy was perfect. The Italians and the meticulous Japanese worked together to bring films that depicted the crossing and mixing of cultures. The Japanese film Back Mirror, about a hired driver and his drunken passenger, is directed by an Italian man. The Italian director portrays the Japanese characters and their subtle dialogues so masterfully that one would never guess that it is directed by a non-Japanese. Similarly, the Italian film Please Leave a Message, about a young Japanese woman who escapes to Rome to sort out her life, is beautifully executed.
Some of the most humorous offerings this year delve into the misunderstandings caused by language barriers. In Road to the Away Game, for example, a Japanese Futsal team, is short one player for a five-a-side soccer game, and the members pick up a stranger based on a description they were given: "a guy named Baba, who is tall, dark and wears a funny hat." They pick up an African man wearing a colorful hat at a street corner in Tokyo, but he does not speak a word of Japanese. Because of this lack of communication, the team members do not find out until the end that the Baba they were supposed to pick up was in fact a tall, tan Japanese guy who had not been at the street corner on time because he had overslept. To the team's benefit, the African Baba turns out to be a professional player on the South African national team, and even without the ability to communicate, they share their passion for the sport.
Guilty Unless Proven Otherwise also addresses the same issue of miscommunication due to the language barrier. A tourist in Italy is accused of being a terrorist since the interpreter fails to translate the language properly. Rather than admitting to his lack of knowledge, the interpreter tries to impress the police. He pretends to understand both languages, and his imaginative interpretation turns the innocent tourist into a terrorist scheming to blow up a store. Although a serious topic, the comical interpretation had the entire audience in laughter.
The Showcase also offered a terrific selection of films focusing on traditional culture being threatened by the new. Surprise Brothers, from Japan, for example, portrays a small town cake shop being threatened by a franchise takeover; Chocopie, from Korea, is about a small shopkeeper struggling to keep customers; and On the Other Side, from France, portrays a disconnect between a law student son coming home to a immigrant neighborhood. Regardless of cultural differences, this theme showed the commonalities between the countries.
On the last night of the Showcase, the audience had an opportunity to enjoy the short films and food from all eight countries. For this closing event held at the Italian Embassy, the countries selected films that are under fifteen minutes, and techniques used in each were as distinct as their cultures. There was claymation in Platform from Japan, computer animation in Where is My Friend? from Korea, paper cutout animation in Paper Child from China, animation without real dialogue in Geraldine from France, and Picasso-esque hand-drawn animation in Hezurbeitzak, Common Grave from Spain. Providing a rare chance to sample eight cultures in one sitting, the Third Annual Asian European Short Film Showcase didn't disappoint this year's audience.
NHK World TV is looking for viewers living outside Japan who watch NHK World TV regularly to send in their impressions, comments and suggestions on news bulletins and other programs. Monitors will be paid if they submit the reports properly. The following is the call for applications for program monitors:
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