How is it as a woman in Japanese films? These experts will tell you

Panelist at the Discover the beauty symposium grapple with the problems faced by women directors around the world.

The Discover the beauty symposium, sponsored and co-sponsored by Japan Cultural Expo and Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, took place this week and we would like to highlight some of the important discussions from the panelists.

At this symposium, women in the film industry discussed the role of women in film in the USA and Japan with moderator Chuk Besher. Panelists included art director and Emmy winner Chikako Suzuki, documentary director Ema Ryan Yamazaki, and Japanese commentator and actor LiLiCo.

The discussion also touched on the topic of “beauty” and looked back through history on the Japanese women who contributed to the establishment of Japanese beauty culture and who are highly regarded abroad.

“Discover Beauty” also showed the “Discover Beauty Program”, a collection of short films that show Japanese beauty from the perspective of female directors. If you missed it, check out the lineup of all female-directed shorts on the Discover Beauty program.

Check out the Beauty Symposium recording below, then take a look at the top takeaways!

The celluloid ceiling

Besher opened the discussion with statistics from Center for Research on Women in TV & Film about how few women in Hollywood are in leadership positions.

Suzuki, who works exclusively in Hollywood, said she’s seen things change since the #MeToo movement emerged, and she’s seeing more women even in the male-dominated light and handle departments.

“I don’t think women work thinking that they are women,” said Suzuki. “But they can definitely bring another element to the set. And I feel like female actors and actresses, they feel a little more comfortable when there are more women on the set.”

Yamazaki, who works mostly in New York, told a story about a female boss who cut her maternity leave to secure her job. She fears that she will have to do the same.

“I’m very worried that if I don’t work for a few years, I will be forgotten in a way.” said Yamazaki. “I think it’s kind of an unyielding industry, both in the US and Japan. But I think especially in Japan there are still problems with working with young children that I see in the near future.”

LiLiCo (who was born and raised in Sweden) agreed, saying that women in Japan are discriminated against when they want to have children.

Recognition: SSFF & ASIA

Creation of various crews

Yamazaki said she had only recently started thinking about getting or losing a job because of her gender. She is aware of this when overseeing her own projects.

“I watch out for younger women,” she said. “Because if I had known what I know now when I was 10 years younger, I shouldn’t have been so scared sometimes. But I also think that it depends on the woman. When I put a crew together, I just want to think of the best person for the job. Since I’m a woman and I’m the director, I like to balance the teams. I often work with male directors because, depending on the topic, different people can be attracted to different personalities, different genders. “

For example, if her subjects are young children, she would like to have different options on the crew that can connect with those subjects.

The struggles of Japanese films

The proportion of women writers and directors in Japan is quite low, as Besher emphasized.

Yamazaki said, “Very few girls dream of becoming film directors because there are very few role models. I can’t really imagine that there would be no interest if the opportunity were more normal. I think Japan lies in this one Respect pretty back. ” . “

Suzuki said she didn’t take any projects in Japan because she didn’t feel as creative as she was in Hollywood. She told a story about being asked to act as a consultant on a project, but the person she asked for help was a Japanese who treated her as if he didn’t want her help.

“I feel like [the] Japanese industry has this old way of doing things, “she said.

This was an amazing insight into Japan’s film industry and how women are treated in film around the world. Make sure to stop by the entire panel for more of these experts!

Recognition: SSFF & ASIA


Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia is an Oscar accredited festival. This means that the winner of the best short film prizes in the competition as well as the non-fiction competition can be nominated in the short film categories of the Academy Awards next year.

The festival was founded in 1999 as the Short Shorts Film Festival (SSFF). In 2004, the SSFF added a program for Asian short films and, with the support of the Governor of Tokyo, founded the Short Shorts Film Festival Asia.

Now the combination of the two festivals takes place annually in Tokyo as Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, one of the largest short film festivals in Asia. This year’s festival will take place June 11-21 with online and in-person demonstrations and events.

Check out all of our festival reports here!

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