Rising Japanese Star Toko Miura, Producer Ayumi Sano on Women’s Rights,  Ahead of Mipcom Premiere ‘Elpis’

CANNES – Three film women of Japan hit the Croisette on Tuesday for Mipcom’s Asian World Premiere screening of Kansai TV’s groundbreaking female TV reporter series “Elpis,” set in Japan’s male-centric TV universe. 

In the plot, a female journalist has been demoted, following a scandal, to “Friday Bonbon,” a show far less serious than the newscast that she was involved in before. She soon gets her mojo back, however, investigating a complicated murder case with the help of some friends in high places.

It’s not necessarily easier being a female producer than a reporter in Japan, said Sano. The industry is “10 years behind” in terms of women breaking through in film. 

So getting the show made represented an extraordinary effort on the part of Sano whose previous credits include “My Dear Exes” and “Quartet.” 

Not to mention the added complication of the pandemic. Both cast and crew members went down with the virus, which added a month to completing the first episode, she said.

“Japan is such a traditional society that women are still expected to be housewives and bear and look after children,” Sano told Variety, talking through a translator. “Plus set hours are so long it makes it impossible for women to juggle it all.”

Things are changing. “I took my inspiration from American women telling people to f*** off. It gave me courage. Like the character in the show, we have started to talk back,” she added with a giggle. “It is exactly the point of this show. If you have something to say, say it loudly. Hopefully this will empower Japanese women to do that.”

Sano has worked in television for more than 15 years.

“It’s such an honor for us to be here in Cannes,” she said. “I can’t quite believe it. I hope the show gives viewers an eye into the media world for female reporters in Japan.”

Rising star Miura added: “I think it’s a tipping point in Japan where female reporters are becoming more powerful, and we are honored to be part of that change with this show.”

Sano said she based the story of “Elpis” on several criminal cases and summarized the facts surrounding them for the scriptwriter Aya Watanabe who turned it into a series.

The series was made primarily with a Japanese audience in mind. “It is  an important story to tell to local audiences to help herald change for women,” said Miura. “It’s often old men in charge of making all the decisions even to get productions green lit and they don’t really understand our cause.”

Added Sano: “We have been fighting for these causes for a long time. With projects like this, it makes it easier. Companies want projects like this. They accept them but they don’t really know what is women’s fight in society.”

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