News from the Locarno Festival
 

Premio Raimondo Rezzonico to Office Kitano

With the Premio Rezzonico, Locarno is paying hommage to the contribution of Office Kitano to Cinema. How did your story start? 

I first met Takeshi Kitano thirty years ago. I was a director on the TV program that Kitano presented on Japanese TV, as comedy superstar «Beat Takeshi». There was a plan for him and his associates to become independent and establish a new office, so in 1988 I partecipated in the creation of “Office Kitano”. Kitano already ap- peared in Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), where he got a chance to show his acting skills. When the Office was formed, he received an offer to star in an action picture by Kinji Fukasaku, the master of Yakuza films. When Fukasaku left the project, Kitano said «if I were the director, I could shoot this film». He never directed before, but the distributors liked the idea, a film directed by «Beat Takeshi». It might be hard to believe it now, but then the Japanese distributor refused to use his real name. Takeshi Kitano was not known by many people in the world, at least until Hana-bi won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1997. After that, in order to protect and strengthen our environment, I decided to support other directors who create such excellent and creative works as Takeshi Kitano. 

Which aspects are driving your movie production ideas, which are still deeply connected to Kitano’s example? 

I think the most important starting point in cre- ating films is the imagination and originality of the director. As for producing the work of Takeshi Kitano, he always had 5-6 ideas for new films. Of course I respect his priorities, but I also think in terms of budgets and audience. That said, it is simply the relationship of mutual trust between a director and a producer.

Among your many collaborations, you wor- ked with Jia Zhang-ke. How did it happen? 

There was an opportunity for producer Shozo Ichiyama to meet Jia Zhang-ke at the Berlinale in 1998. They discussed Platform, and a script was sent half a year later. I met Jia Zhangke in Vancouver in September and saw his initial work Xiao Wu. I met the team on the Chinese side in Busan one month later and agreed on co-producing Platform. That project was also supported by Monte Cinema Verità, the fund established by Locarno. I wish to express my appreciation for the support on this fund as well. 

Youalsoproduced Delbaran,byAbolfazl Jalili which received the Special Prize of the Jury in Locarno in 2002. What do you remember about that experience? 

When producer Shozo Ichiyama was in the selection committee at the Tokyo International Film Festival, there was an opportunity to arrange for a special screening of director Abolfazl Jalili’s film. He had just started Delbaran and I decided to produce it. Filming began in January 2000, but the shooting in the desert was full of difficul- ties. In addition, editing took more time than expected. Delbaran raised International attention when it was selected in the Locarno competition in 2002, and won a special jury prize. Delbaran was shown in the other international film festi- vals, and was distributed theatrically in several countries including France. 

What is the secret – if there is one – for being able to produce quality movies, keeping a trust relationship with the audience? 

I believe it is possible to create high-quality movies, even under limited conditions, by trusting the director’s creativity and the capability of the crew, and establishing a superior environment, including casting talented actors. And in the end, I think it is very important to have the modest posture not to bring the audience to the film but bring the film to the audience. 

Lorenzo Buccella
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