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Last week, we reported that Hiroshima International Animation Festival (HIAF) had closed, and that the City of Hiroshima was seeking to amalgamate elements of it into a new arts event, without the participation of its erstwhile co-organizer ASIFA-Japan. Since we published the article, both the City and ASIFA-Japan have responded to our initial requests for comment.

The two bodies, which steered HIAF through more than 35 years of operation, disagree on its legacy. The City has clarified to us that it considers the animation strand of the new event, which will first be held in 2022, to be a continuation of HIAF, adding that it is currently considering what to name the festival in its new format. It attributed its statement to the Hiroshima International Animation Festival Organizing Committee.

ASIFA-Japan, the national branch of the International Animated Film Association, says the City’s claim to be continuing the festival without its participation is “a problem,” as the new event will be “completely different.” It adds that its representatives have also been serving on the festival’s Organizing Committee, but that it doesn’t endorse the statement issued to us in the committee’s name.

We have reprinted both statements below. Here is the statement from Makiko Nagao, general secretary of ASIFA-Japan:

If I may, as general secretary of ASIFA-Japan, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the situation a little further.

This festival was established in 1984 (the first edition in 1985) when Hiroshima City and ASIFA shared the same spirit of pursuing eternal peace and international mutual understanding through the art of animation.

Renzo and Sayoko Kinoshita aimed to develop a true “international city of peace and culture” in Hiroshima, having animation art as a backbone to embrace all kinds of cultures weaved by human beings. Their concept was to “create a forest of art and culture in Hiroshima city,” looking ahead into the next 100 or 200 years. For the realization of such a goal, the festival was established to be held on a continual basis, co-organized by Hiroshima city (to take care of the finance) and ASIFA-Japan (to take care of the festival/animation know-how), under the endorsement of ASIFA, by conforming to its international competitive festival rules.

From the beginning, it had always been very hard work for Sayoko to realize a festival of high quality, protecting the rights of animation filmmakers as well as supporting the freedom of expression in the very first place. She has been serving as the festival director voluntarily, without any honorarium, and dedicated all her time, knowledge, and energy for 36 years.

Although the entire festival budget may seem satisfying, the budget for the “ASIFA-Japan Project Team” (led by the festival director) had always been less than “necessary actual expenses,” and Sayoko had been compensating for the deficit through her own studio. For the sake of her honor, she is not blaming the city, because we at ASIFA-Japan were pleased to serve as the co-organizer, and not as a subcontractor or an outsourcer. (Also, Sayoko and I have been serving as members of the festival’s Organizing Committee as well.)

The main concern here is not regarding the finance. We at ASIFA-Japan were always proud to work together with Hiroshima City, and ASIFA had long been supporting our festival. Hiroshima Festival was not only dedicated to animation, but always treasured, shared, and honored the spirit of Hiroshima.

Today, the city’s spirit has become well diffused and respected by numerous animation people around the world, and the whole animation field has long been acting and making efforts for Hiroshima. Many animation people visited Hiroshima together with their students, family, and friends to experience and feel the importance of the city. Many activities for peace were realized internationally through animation art and through the existence of Hiroshima Festival.

Thus, we have been very discouraged about the sudden policy change of Hiroshima City, regardless of many years of continuation and history together: that is, to replace the festival with a new “cultural art event,” to be organized by the people of Hiroshima for the benefit of the people of Hiroshima, putting more emphasis on economic effect as well as tourism promotion.

It is most regrettable that, when making this decision, they did not respect the long-time Festival Director Sayoko and the co-organizer ASIFA-Japan and ASIFA, even though they acknowledge and evaluate the festival’s reputation we have achieved.

It was last November when one of the Hiroshima City officers came to Sayoko, who was staying at the festival office in Hiroshima, and suddenly told her that they would not co-organize the festival with ASIFA-Japan any more, and they do not need ASIFA and its festival rules.

There was no discussion or consultation in advance at all. And, some time later, we found out that the decision was already made by the Mayor at the City council in September 2019, accepting the proposal made by one of the council members and groups. I am afraid to say that the city’s decision and the way they approached it is quite contrary to morals and ethics.

The new “cultural art event” will be organized by local companies such as Chugoku Shikoku Division of Hakuhodo (a major advertising agency), Chugoku Shimbun (a local newspaper), etc.

The problem is that the city is recognizing their decision as a “continuation of the Hiroshima Festival” within their “cultural art event,” even without the involvement of ASIFA and ASIFA-Japan. Yet it is clear that their new event will be something completely different, aiming for economic development instead.

Here is the statement from the Hiroshima International Animation Festival Organizing Committee:

As for Hiroshima International Animation Festival, from the perspective of extending our accomplishments so far, we will rethink about the contents and the method of implementation, aiming to contribute not only to promoting animation art, but also to revitalizing the economy, to promoting tourism, and more.

The festival will take place within the first edition of the comprehensive art and culture event, which is planned to be held in 2022.

Also, we will reconsider the festival’s contents, aiming to contribute continuously toward the promotion of animation art, and to make the festival a more approachable event for ordinary citizens, by adding animation works which entertain many people at theaters and on tv, in addition to highly artistic animation shorts.

Details will be discussed and considered with referring opinions from our affiliates, after an exploratory committee is established.

As for the name of the festival, we would like to consider something suitable which symbolizes the festival at an exploratory committee.

Also, as for the festival, from the perspective of extending our accomplishments so far, we assume of enhancing our animation competition program (by preserving the current quality of short film competition and adding a feature film competition, etc).

In addition, we would like to mention that Hiroshima International Animation Festival Organizing Committee has signed an outsourcing agreement of festival director’s works and operations with our Festival Director Sayoko Kinoshita and paid outsourcing expenses. We have not intended to ask her to serve as the festival director as a volunteer.

Both statements were submitted in English.