Zipangu Fest, the UK& 39;s independent Japanese film festival, is proud to present at its 2012 edition Somi - The Taekwon-do Woman.
Hold on - did someone say taekwondo?
On the surface, Somi - The Taekwon-do Woman (1997) may not look like a Japanese film, and one doesn’t think often think of Japan in relation to international co-productions, especially during the 1990s. However, the film was financed 100% on the Japanese side and was intended for an international audience, to be released under the alternative English title of Woman Warrior of Koryo. The story follows a similar narrative arc to that celebrated Japanese tale of tyranny and revenge, Lady Snowblood, but benefits from the sets, locations and solid craftsmanship provided by its North Korean cast and crew, resulting in a far higher production values than one would expect of a historical martial arts action movie made in Japan during the same period.
Producer Masao Kobayashi began his long career in film working as an assistant director for Daiei in the 1960s, until the company’s bankruptcy in 1971. After years of producing and managing TV dramas and various film projects, he was requested by the Democratic People& 39;s Republic of Korea’s Film Export & Import Corporation to make another film, resulting in the production of Somi - The Taekwon-do Woman, financed with Japanese money but using an all-North Korean cast and crew. He would move on to Pyongyang in 2000 with the celebrated Japanese director Yoji Yamada (the It’s Tough Being a Man/Tora-san series, Twilight Samurai, About Her Brother, etc) with a view to another such co-production, but trade restrictions imposed in 2004 by the then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, following Kim Jong-il’s disclosure of the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korea, spelled an end to such projects.
According to Kobayashi, the actress playing Somi, Ri Mi Yang, was an amateur who was chosen by the North Koreans "because they thought that the Japanese might like her face". As fortune would have it, however, the film was only screened once in Japan, at the Yubari Film Festival in 2001. It didn’t fare much better in North Korea either, screening only once on its premiere on New Year& 39;s eve 1997/98. Meanwhile global political developments saw potential markets for the film closing, and though an English-language 35mm print was prepared, it was never used outside of its international festival debut at Yubari and remained in storage, until now…
So be the first to see this rare film on our opening night, Friday September 14th 2012, on real 35mm. Our venue this year is the amazing Cinema Museum in Kennington, London - you& 39;ll be enjoying a fun bit of film history whilst sitting amongst bits of film history ;)
But why the crowdfunded event?
To give you some background, we& 39;re a non-profit organisation.
We& 39;re run by a team of volunteers whose only real common characteristic is our love for great film, and we& 39;re here because we want to share great film experiences with others. Actually, that& 39;s the same too for our venue, The Cinema Museum, which is a registered charity that doesn& 39;t receive funding from the government (check here for a heartwarming history).
Last year 79% of our expenditure came from grants.
Seems pretty high, but what this says about us is that most of our money is spent on sourcing and properly projecting great films, as only certain types of costs qualify for grant coverage.
Our fate is in your hands.
We have so far been fortunate to consistently win the support of some organisations, but due to grant award terms and conditions and competition for funding from other great events (which is an awesome thing!), we face a significantly dry year for funding in 2013, and at the moment we cannot guarantee that next year’s edition will be possible. All we can rely on is you, our discerning, film-loving audience to support us through attendance and feedback. The quicker you help wean us off grant money, the sooner the same money can go to developing other Japan-related projects in the UK.
We’re first and foremost a festival for filmmakers and film-lovers.
Unlike many other film festivals, we don’t charge filmmakers any fees for submitting their films. Instead, we reward them for the films you enjoy, with screening fees. And as most of the films we source aren’t through an agency or a corporate giant label, your money goes directly to the filmmakers.
All it takes to participate is the average price of a cinema ticket in Central London.
Unlike the standard crowdfunded project, we& 39;ve only set one pledge size - £10. Actually, you could choose to spend it somewhere else - we can& 39;t really speak for the choices of discerning film-lovers. But with us, you& 39;ll get unique curation you won& 39;t find elsewhere; you& 39;ll see rare films excavated by our genius festival director (no joke - he never runs out of surprises); you& 39;ll receive real customer service from people who want to be there. Most of all everyone who works for Zipangu Fest, from projection to festival director, and accountant to producer, is always around to chat to. You can tell us what you liked or disliked about our events, we& 39;ll take it on board and you& 39;ll see results at the next festival. With us, you can help influence the quality of your film experiences.
We hope you& 39;ll pass this page on.
We& 39;ll need to make 120 pledges in 30 days, or we won& 39;t be able to fund this screening. Word of mouth is one of the most valuable and respected ways to pass on a good bit of news, and we won& 39;t let you down.
Finally, a huge thank you from Zipangu Fest and The Cinema Museum.
By participating in this event, you have directly contributed:
- To 14% of The Cinema Museum’s rent for September
- To the entire screening fee of this fillm
- To getting this film shipped here (35mm reel from Japan – and we need to get it back!)
- To a good reason for film to be rescued from obscurity and shipped to the UK
- To the knock-on effect of which will be that we can now tour this film to other venues in the UK for other film-lovers to enjoy
For an accurate representation* of where your money will go, please see the pie chart in our uploaded images (we& 39;d love to tell all, but a couple of the figures are confidential for business reasons).