As part of the Festival, the Japanese government awarded the "U.S. Japan Content Merit Award" for bringing Japanese content and talent to a mainstream American audience.
Besides being honored for "Hachi: A Dog's Tale", other recipients were Director Guillermo Del Toro (Pacific Rim), Producer Tim Kring (Heroes), Producer Don Murphy
(Transformers) and Chief Content Officer John Lasseter (Toy Story) of Pixar who created the market for Ghibli Films in the US.
The honor was conferred by Jun Niimi, (Consul General of Japan), Kensuke Tomita, (Director-General, Commerce and Information Policy Bureau- Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) and Sachiko Yoshimura (JETRO Los Angeles Chief Executive Director). The formal ceremony took place at the Consul General of Japan's beautiful Los Angeles residence.
The 3rd annual LA Eigafest opened with the premiere of the Clint Eastwood remake "Unforgiven" starring Ken Watanabe and directed by Lee Sang-il.
It’s 1869, and imperial troops hotly pursue renegade samurai, loyal to the Shogun system, who have fled to the northern island of Hokkaido. An impressively choreographed bloodbath unfolds in the snowy forests. The screening was held at the famous Egyptian theater with Mr. Watanabe and Mr. Sang-il answering audience questions after the screening.
It was a fun evening with a delicious buffet reception and lots of avid film fans. The festival is headed by Mr. Hayato Mitsuishi, President of the Japan Film Society. Hayato has boundless energy, a warm smile and is an exuberant advocate for Japan films.
Supporting the festival was Misako Ito, Director of the Japan Foundation Los Angeles. I first met Misako when she coordinated a Hachi screening and reception for the Japanese Ambassador in Washington DC. There's nothing Misako can't find out or do!
The entire weekend was invaluable for aspiring and advanced filmmakers alike. I participated in a business panel on Saturday morning, and learned quite a bit about anime and manga from Jason Hoffs, head of VIZ Productions. The company acquires world-class Japanese intellectual properties and packages them with Hollywood creative talent.
Also on the panel was actor, writer, producer Masi Oka. An Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actor, Masi Oka burst onto the scene in NBC’s series “Heroes” and currently can be seen on the hit series, “Hawaii 5-0.”
Jason and Masi are both consummate professionals, and possess a huge body of knowledge about film and television production. I came into film quite a different way. As I shared that morning- my career started because of a dog in 1930's Japan!