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Yoji Yamada and His Family

The Berlinale Talent Campus series "In the Limelight" gives the Japanese director the chance to retrace the different steps of his career.


Yoji Yamada

Director Yoji Yamada was on a panel at the Berlinale Talent Campus titled “In The Limelight”. He was joined by Ichiro Yamamoto, the producer of his latest film, KYOTO STORY, and Tsutomu Abe, the co-director.

The panel started with a brief introduction of the most widely viewed part of Yamada’s career, the series built around the comic anti-hero Tora-san. Comprising 48 films, the series dealt with the adventures of a travelling merchant who experiences unlucky romantic relationships in every episode.

The studio system in Japan is central to Yamada’s career as a filmmaker. In his youth, Yamada joined Shochiku, one of Japan’s major studios. Yamada said that each of these studios has an individual structure and specializes in certain genres. Because Shochiku’s specialty was family dramas, the main focus in his career became human drama within the family. Yamada added that as he was working at the studio, he was told to take great care incorporating humour into his films because humour was considered indispensable to the family-drama genre.

The discussion about the studio system in Japan led Yamada to the subject of his “Samurai Trilogy”, three films made from 2002 to 2006 that he shot at Shochiku’s Kyoto studio, often used for period films. Yamada said that he hated contemporary samurai films, finding them very artificial. Noticing that these films represented stereotyped warriors with no emotional depth to their characters, he decided to make films that display the ordinary life of samurai – human dramas, once again, but this time in the context of samurai tradition.

The panel also focused on KYOTO STORY, a kind of homage to Yamada’s studio, which he considers his family. The film enlisted the talents of 22 film students of Ritsumeikan University, many of whom were in the audience during the panel. KYOTO STORY gave these young actors and crew their first introduction to professional filmmaking. The film is being screened in the Forum section of the Berlinale, while Yamada’s OTOTO will be the closing film of the festival.



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