One key villain is the Internet, which eats into traditional audiences and has made it hard for directors to get films made, said Irish director Neil Jordan, the competition jury at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
“There’s a real crisis in filmmaking right now, and that’s evidenced to me by the fact that every director I know is unemployed. Or almost everyone,” said the Oscar-winning Jordan, whose credits include The Crying Game and Company of Wolves.
Jordan, who heads the jury, added: “I think the crisis in cinema-going is caused by the Internet. Like every other industry — music, publishing, film. The Internet is absolutely changing peoples’ habits and so everything is in a state of flux.”
Ironically, the festival opened on Saturday with a screening of The Social Network, a movie about the founding of social media site Facebook.
There are 15 competitors for the $50,000 top Sakura Prize, selected from over 80 countries and regions.
Among them are two films from China, including Buddha Mountain by director Li Yu, three from the Middle East including Flamingo No. 13 by Iranian director Hamid Reza Aligholian, and Post Card by 98-year-old Japanese director Kaneto Shindo.
Host country Japan, which gave the world greats like Akira Kurosawa — the 100th anniversary of whose birth will be honoured at the festival — is far from immune to the cinema world’s woes, with film attendance drifting slowly down from a decade ago.
Its once-vaunted appetite for foreign films has fallen as well.
Imported movies accounted for 43 per cent of Japan’s 206 billion yen (US$2.53 billion) box office last year, far off a peak of 73 per cent hit in 2002, according to the Motion Pictures Producers Association of Japan.
Jordan said that while he was sure cinema-going would revive, it was currently extremely hard for good movies to break out from the confines of an increasing number of festivals into wider audiences.
“I think it’s very important that films do not find themselves in a ‘ghetto’ of festivals,” he told a news conference.
“Festivals are enormously important because they’re one of the few avenues left for serious filmmaking, but it’s also important that films leap beyond the festival circuit to find audiences around the world.”
The Tokyo International Film Festival continues until October 31 and includes a tribute to noted Chinese film star Bruce Lee.