Jonathan Wroot presented on the second day of the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies (BAFTSS) 2017 Conference. This year it was held at the University of Bristol (who’s zoetrope skylight is pictured). The full schedule and panel information can be found here:
Fellow BCU staff members Rajinder Dudrah and Xavier Mendik also presented. My own abstract is as follows. This was given as part of the Screen Industries Special Interest Group, formed this year. The overall theme of the conference was Genre:
Franchise>Genre>Industry: What can be learnt from the Zatoichi film franchise
Zatoichi is one of the longest running chanbara (sword action) media franchises. It began as a film franchise in 1962, became a TV series from 1974 to 1979, and then carried on as a film franchise until 2010. The premise of the story is constant – a blind master swordsman wanders the roads of medieval Japan alone. The series charts an illustrative view of the history of the chanbara genre, Japanese exploitation cinema, and the Japanese film industry in general. The later history of the franchise signifies developments in the genre’s traits, and the impact the films were having outside of Japan.
The franchise got bloodier as it went along, with the 1989 film having the highest body count in the series. 1989 would also see similar violence and iconography within Hollywood productions, such as the Zatoichi remake, Blind Fury (1989); The Punisher (1989); and Robocop 3 (1993). This imagery would go on to be influential in future Hollywood productions, but would also characterise later Japanese chanbara films. When the Zatoichi franchise was revived through several remakes in the 2000s, equally bloody titles about other characters also appeared at Japanese cinemas. Though a Zatoichi film has not been made since 2010, many of the series later trends are still found in later chanbara entries. Studying Zatoichi therefore provides a unique insight into one genre’s development, history and influence – within Japanese cinema and around the world.
It is my hope to continue exploring this research and publish findings in a monograph, as well as further conference papers. Rowman and Littlefield have expressed interest, and are a publisher associated with the Martial Arts Studies Network. Simon Barber and Oliver Carter have also been working with the network, as demonstrated through their Martial Arts Cinema symposium, held at BCU in April 2016.
The rest of the BAFTSS conference was a joy to attend. I listened to papers where historical and contemporary case studies concerning film marketing and reception were explored; several trends in animation were investigated, from blockbusters made by Disney and Chinese studios, to the BBC remake of the Clangers; diversity issues both in front and behind the screen; the James Bond franchise; as well as under-researched areas in 1960s British cinema history. This was the 5th occurrence of the conference and the first time it was held over two days instead of three – allowing for a higher number of delegates. Professors Sue Harper and Steve Neale were presented with lifetime achievement awards.