Today I am in Switzerland, at the Locarno Film Festival, which has dedicated an entire strand of programming to Japanese animation. Specifically I am going to be talking onstage with film archivist Akira Tochigi about a subject close to my heart – the modern renaissance in pre-war anime and the problems of restoring old cartoons.
Ever since the last surviving copy of Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors was uncovered in a warehouse in the 1980s, there have been periodic rediscoveries. Digital technology makes it possible not only to preserve them, but also to restore them and distribute them to a far wider audience than ever saw the originals. I have, here on my desk, a mere five DVDs that contain most of the surviving Japanese cartoons from the period 1917-45, but the Locarno Film Festival is showing a whole bunch of others, including some items that I have been waiting ten years for the chance to see.
Meanwhile, the festival marches on. Yesterday, if everything went to plan, I was interpreting for Hiroyuki Yamaga at the festival screening of Wings of Honneamise. Tomorrow, I am somehow involved in an Italian press conference for Gurren Lagann… not totally sure what’s going on, there. On Sunday, I have a panel with a zillion other people about the anime world, followed by an introduction to Osamu Tezuka’s experimental works. And someone called Yoshiyuki Tomino is turning up for a night of open-air screenings in his honour. Next week, I am going to be spending several hours with Ichiro Itano, talking over his animation career and working methods for what appears to be an audience of local film students.
I am quite boggled by the extent of the Locarno Film Festival. As well as over 200 anime on show, they have somehow lured Isao Takahata and Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, half of Gainax and Katsuhito Ishii to Switzerland for the week. It’s like someone took a dozen conventions and ran them all at once. With a bonus film festival and cheap wine. Wish you were here?