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Japanese #womeninfilm & Cathy Munroe Hotes

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cathy Munroe Hotes
I've wanted to know more about Japanese women filmmakers and women's film festivals, for ages. Like Korean women filmmakers and women's festivals, they're just across the Pacific/ Te Moana Nui a Kiwa. So I was delighted to find Cathy Munroe Hotes' Japanese Women Behind the Scenes wiki. This rich, fascinating resource offers information about Japanese women writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, art directors, continuity editors, animators, editors, experimental filmmakers and more. I was even more delighted when Cathy agreed to answer some questions.

Where I can, I've linked each woman she mentions to her page on Cathy's website. For the few who don't have a page there, I've linked to their website or another online resource.

How did your study of Japanese women directors begin? 

I have always had an interest in women directors.  In my native Canada, I was drawn to directors like Patricia Rozema (I’ve Heard the Mermaid Singing, Mansfield Park, Into the Forest) and the documentary director Alanis Obomsawin (Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, People of the Kattawapiskak River, Trick or Treaty?).  

I started Nishikata Film Review when I was living in Tokyo in 2006.  The blog initially did not have any focus at all, but over the years I have become known for my reviews of independent animators and women filmmakers.  The focus on animation came about because I discovered that really amazing alternative animation films were being made in Japan and no one was writing about them in English.  The focus on women came about because of Nippon Connection.  I first began going to the festival as a blogger in 2008, a year after my family and I moved to Germany [where Cathy teaches at the University of Marburg].  As it is the largest Japanese film festival in the world, the choice of films there is overwhelming, so one year I decided to watch all the films by women.  There were actually many films that year and I enjoyed them very much.  I also noticed at Nippon Connection that women film critics are few and far between – particularly those who have a focus on East Asian film.  One notable exception is Maggie Lee, the chief Asia film critic at Variety.  

For my academic research, I had been making filmographies of animators and filmmakers for years.  I decided to start posting them online, together with links to articles and related websites, in order to share the information that I had gathered and to encourage other people with similar interests to contribute.  Reliable information on independent filmmakers tends to be hard to find, so I wanted to make it easier for both fans and researchers to learn more about a woman filmmaker they may have just discovered.  At the moment there are a couple of people adding information to the site, but I would love to have more people participating.

Is there a strong tradition of women's filmmaking in Japan? Or several traditions?


Tazuko Sakane 坂根田鶴子 1904 – 1975
It took a long time for women to become directors in Japan because of the patriarchal, hierarchical structure of Japanese studios.  The two earliest women filmmakers, Tazuko Sakane and Kinuyo Tanaka, would likely not have had a chance to be directors if they hadn’t had the support of Kenji Mizoguchi.  Unfortunately, most of Sakane’s works are no longer extant, and Tanaka’s works are difficult to see apart from Love Letter (1953).
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