I started a channel called Japanese Film Channel on Vimeo 11 months ago in order to introduce Japanese independent films to the world.
Vimeo is an interesting online platform where you can find true independent films from all over the world, but the reality is that there are not many Japanese films on Vimeo. I still found some Japanese films, but most of them are amateurish.
It was painful to watch many boring films, but I found some interesting films among them. Those films are different from what you can watch in film festivals or on Netflix, and the quality might be poor comparing to bigger budget films. However, I admire those no budget filmmakers, and I'd like to introduce my favorite Japanese films on Vimeo as follows:
This is indeed a high quality film and not even a Japanese film, but a part of the film was shot in Japan with Japanese casts. I wondered if I should include this film in Japanese Film Channel or not, but I included it as I really loved this film. My estimated budget: USD 1 million
This is a mockumentary style horror/thriller by French director Robin Entreinger and shot in Tokyo and Nara. I think this film is super low budget shot by only a few people, but it is scary and interesting. I would call this Japanese/French underground film, and I'm glad I discovered this film. Somehow, this film is not on Vimeo anymore, but I'd like to mention the link for Amazon. My estimated budget: USD 10K
3. Children of Water
This is a love comedy by Swiss director Roger Walch based in Kyoto. I'm not sure if the director intended to make it funny or serious, but it was really funny for me in a way. This is another underground film directed by a foreign guy in Japan. I think this film is super entertaining for this budget level. My estimated budget: USD 10K
Another film by Swiss director Roger Walch shot in Japan. This is about the legend of Japanese creature Tengu. Frankly speaking, the film looks cheap, but in a good way. And I think he knows it. I love the way he directs the unknown actors and shows Japanese culture. My estimated budget: USD 20K
5. Yuwaku 3
Another film by Roger Walch. He keeps entertaining me, and I would call him the best Swiss director based in Kyoto. From my experience, it is so difficult to keep watching low budget films online, but I enjoy all of his films somehow. He knows what the audience is expecting no matter what the budget is. My estimated budget: USD 5K
6. Oh Lucy!
This is a short film version of Oh Lucy! which was screened at Canned this year. I'm not a big fan of this film honestly, but I list it here as many people like it. My estimated budget: USD 100K
7. American Hikikomori
This is an American short film shot in the US, but it is about Japanese family moved to the US. It is quite interesting to see how a guy can be hikikomori in a foreign country. My estimated budget: USD 50K
A drama directed by James McFay and shot in Tokyo. This film won Special Jury Prize at Pia Film Festival. My estimated budget: USD 30K
A drama directed by Daniel Lavin and shot in Japan. I watched much more Japanese films on Vimeo, but this is the minimum level I could watch the whole movie. My estimated budget: USD 10K
Unfortunately, there is only one film directed by Japanese directors here as you can see. It is so disappointing for me as there are so many Japanese independent directors who are complaining that there is no place to show their films.
I think many of those Japanese directors are not interested in showing their films or are not confident about their films. For me, the most important thing about filmmaking is to show the film to people. Even if the film is crap, the director should show it. Not showing is worse than showing crappy films. I even sell my crappy films online and receive so many bad reviews, but I lean a lot from honest reviewers online.
Also, some directors say, "I don't want to show my film online. I want the audience see my film on a big screen only." However, those directors have chances to show their films on big screens only a few times at film festivals, and only a few people come to watch their films. Then they ask the local governments' financial support for making their next films complaining that there is not enough financial support for independent films in Japan. I asked one of them, "Who is your favorite director?" She said, "François Truffaut." I asked, "Where did you see his films? On a big screen?" She said, "On DVD."
Anyway, I hope that more Japanese filmmakers will put their films on Vimeo and that Japanese Film Channel will be the place where people around the world can find Japanese underground films in the near future!