The Japanese Film Festival in India, hosted by the Japan Foundation, began in New Delhi on September 27. The festival will travel to seven cities and screen 25 films, including the latest Japanese films, concluding on February 16 2020 Weathering with You, the Japanese hit animation movie, opened this year’s Japanese Film Festival in India. The screening in New Delhi was the first ever Japanese animation movie to be released in Indian theatres. The Japan Foundation spoke with Weathering with You’s director, Makoto Shinkai, about the Indian response and his role in bringing Japanese animation to India.
The premiere screening of Weathering with You in India was very enthusiastic. What is your impression of the Indian audience?
MS: I thought their reactions were pure and cute. It’s more like adorable rather than cute. They are not shy about saying “interesting” when they think is interesting, and watch the movie while having fun from the beginning. It might be a national characteristic of India, but I felt it was quite different from Japan. Certain people are like that in Japan as well, and the number of such people is increasing year by year, but there are still many people who watch movies critically. Or, there is also an atmosphere where you hesitate to express that something is interesting, or you decide your attitude after looking at other people. Even when I’m browsing movie review websites, I sometimes feel that way. On the other hand, there would have been some Indian audiences who didn’t originally know about my movie, but regardless , enjoyed it to the fullest. The screening itself was really touching, like a collaboration between the work and the audience.
Indian high school student, Pancholi started signing for Weathering with You to be released in India on the petition website “Change.org”. How did you come to know about this signature campaign?
MS: On my Twitter account, an English message from India came to me, saying “I started signature campaign in India, so please support me”. ‘Change.org’ is not a suspicious site, and at that time, about 10,000 people had already signed it. Basically, I don’t reply to messages from fans because it would be unfair in a Japanese sense. But since the millions of signatures were already collected, I tweeted, “I don’t know if it can be released in India, but I’m really happy about your feelings, so I’d like to tell the distributor.” Then my Twitter was filled with replies from Indians (laughs). I got many messages that says “Please come to India”. I thought the action itself was very lovable. In the meantime, the number of signatures exceeded 50,000, and Toho contacted me with news of an agreement with an Indian distribution company. Then, there was a good match with the Japan Foundation and the screening was released in India. Japanese fans were also pleased asking with joy, “Can it be released in India?”
Finally, what are your thoughts on the Indian audience?
MS: I was really encouraged by the fact that there were so many people who liked my movies in a country I had never visited in my life. I felt we’re making a movie for that reason. Last night, at the hotel, I talked with the president of our company (Comics Wave Film), Kawaguchi Noritaka, drinking a little whiskey and talking: “So glad that all our hard work has finally paid off…That’s what it means to make a work and deliver the work.” I felt the same way. Since Indian people enjoyed it so much, I’d like to bring my work to India next time again.
When it comes to creating films, I will focus on the Japanese audience first, and that intention will not change in the next work, but their enthusiasm makes me consider how to make it a little more understandable for them to enjoy. Anyway, I’ve been trying to make it domestically, but if I could make animated movies with a little essence from outside Japan, they might be happy, I’d like to make them happy.
India has Bollywood, its own thriving film industry. This makes it unusual for Japanese movies to be released, and even more… animation works are usually considered to be for children in India, so it’s not hard to imagine the hurdle is high. The realization of this screening made us realize the power of movies once again.
Interviewer：Masafumi Konomi ／ Editor：Emi Ishigami