The Japan Wildlife Film Festival opens today – 23 August 2007 – in Toyama, in eastern Japan.
As their website says: “Established in 1993, the Festival is held biennially. It started in the hope that by screening moving images of the wonders of wildlife and the co-existence of nature and people, we could help to increase understanding and awareness of the urgent need to protect and care for the natural world.”
The last Festival, in August 2005, received 331 film entries from 35 countries and some 30,000 people, including many school children, attended the public screenings staged throughout the Toyama region. This level of public participation is exceptional for an international film festival — and shows how well the organisers, the Nature Film Network, have engaged the local people.
International film-makers and broadcasters now know the Festival as one of the biggest of its kind in Asia.
I’m missing Toyama this year. I participated in the last two festivals and have fond memories — of watching great films, having excellent company and enjoying outstanding Japanese hospitality in the salubrious holiday city of Toyama.
In 2003, I was part of the festival’s international jury. Then at the 2005 festival, I was invited to give a talk about our Children of Tsunami media project, which at the time was documenting the personal recovery stories of eight families affected by the Asian Tsunami in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
In both years, a highlight of my experience was the opening evening reception, held at a traditional Japanese farm house restored by NFN and located a half-hour’s drive outside the city. There, the local people hosted us to food and beverages prepared at home. An evening of simple, unpretentious cultural exchange — with nothing ‘official’ about it!
That’s the character of NFN chairman Hirohisa Ota: a man of few words who leads by example and brings together a small but dynamic team of staff and volunteers to run the 4-day festival with clockwork precision.
The photo below shows international participants at JWFF 2005.