Interview: Jasper Sharp, Zipangu Fest founder

This past week, CUEAFS was privileged to have journalist and East Asian film& enthusiast Jasper Sharp in house to offer a rare screening of Tetsuaki Matsue’s Annyong Kimchee (1999), complimented by his lecture on independent film making in Japan. CUEAFS’ Nadia Baird took a moment to chat with Jasper before his lecture about the ethos and direction of Zipangu Fest – a London-based film festival taking place from 23-28 November 2010 – and his philosophy and experiences on writing about Japanese film.

While having only discovered Japanese Cinema over a decade ago, British born Sharp’s extensive work has seen him a regular contributor to Sight and Sound, author of seminal text Behind the Pink Curtain and editor of the influential Japanese film website Midnight Eye.

With such an impressive and unique portfolio of work, Sharp is known as a leading figure in the field of Japanese cinema, but he is quick to point out the variety of journalistic opportunities continually opening up in other niche or emerging markets- for those who take a proactive approach.

Acknowledging that the film industry is not the singular body we tend to identify with Hollywood but rather made up by many groups, for Jasper it is important to remember that to be successful “you’ve got to create roles around yourself”. It is as curator and creator of the forthcoming London Japanese Film Festival Zipangu Fest that his belief in this approach becomes self-evident. As Jasper outlines;

“I wanted to be control of every single aspect and reach out to the audiences I knew were there, also finding ways of attracting new audiences. I consider this screening we’re doing now [at Coventry University] to be part of Zipangu Fest- we definitely want to get people to engage in Japanese cinema, not just to have something showing at one cinema or have one event going on, so then people who aren’t there will never hear about it.”

Jasper Sharps’ desire to bring many films out of relative obscurity through the channel of his website Midnight Eye, his on-going journalistic activities and now with the Zipangu Fest have been influenced and shaped by his own personal experiences as a film enthusiast in the dark days before the relative ease of access afforded by the internet.

Jasper reminisces about a time even before his professional journalistic work on Japanese Cinema commences; “Literally. I think the longest I have spent was twenty years tracing down one film – Mind Feast – which of course is now available on DVD everywhere in the world. But at the time I saw it in the eighties there was a still of it in a book and I thought, it’s mad I want to see it! So I get a big kick at the moment just being part of this process. For example if I see a film I really like in Japan and then have it shown in America, it starts creating these waves around the world that weren’t there before. I think that’s the interesting thing for me; broadening people’s ideas and giving people shared experiences that they won’t forget.”

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Nadia Baird (CUEAFS)