By Adam Torel
Third Window Films is quite different to many distributors in the fact that it’s not just incredibly niche, but also run totally ‘in-house’. I started Third Window in 2005, so it’s been 15 years now, and the goal of the label was to release many minor Asian films which probably wouldn’t have gotten released otherwise. As a massive fan of Asian cinema, I wanted to really focus on titles which had never been released before in the West, instead of working like a normal distributor would do in focusing mainly on easily ‘sellable’ and well-known titles. In order to do this, Third Window has been run incredibly tight, with no office, no real staff and keeping as much in house (literally run out of my home) as possible. This means handling as much of the process: from buying rights, making materials, subtitling, filming and editing extras, press/marketing, social networking, etc etc. – all done in house. By reducing as many costs as possible, I’ve been able to release films I love, and that makes making a Best 10 so hard, as I love all the films I’ve released and all are very personal to me!
Saying that, here’s my favourite 10 releases (in no order), and a little story behind them.
This is a very personal film to me as while it’s one of my favourite films of all time, its Western release was almost single handedly done by myself out of pure passion for the film. A film I’ve literally seen 100 times and tend to watch whenever I’m feeling down, “Stardust Brothers” was a title unheard of in Japan and oddly had never ever played outside of Japan either. Considering the names involved (directed by the son of Osamu Tezuka; starring many big names in film, music and manga; just plain old fun!), its failure upon initial release meant it got immediately buried and took decades to be discovered. I was so desperate to get it out there that I worked on the remaster and then made subtitles, dcps, new interviews, etc., and brought it to over 30 film festivals worldwide handling press and marketing along the way. Now with an all-region release out soon, I really hope more people can discover it.
Like Stardust Brothers, this is also a film which I put a massive amount of work into. Being a fan of the director from watching his short films in the past, I told him that when he made a feature to immediately get in touch, and when I was able to see “One Cut” in 2017, I asked the director if he’d let me get it out to audiences worldwide. Together we worked on making a new poster, then I made subtitles, screening materials, a marketing plan, etc., and I started bringing it to worldwide film festivals, then selling to like-minded distributors worldwide. By aggressively contacting all my friends in the business and marketing the hell out of it, even before its unprecedented success in Japan, it was able to become a big hit worldwide, and has to date played well over 100 film festivals and been sold to many countries so people everywhere have been able to see it!
I think Fish Story is one of the films from third window that I recommend the most to people who are not so into Asian cinema. It’s got a great sales pitch (4 events taking place over 4 decades connecting the end of the world to the birth of punk!), and it totally lives up to it. It’s a unique and intelligent film, but also a very easy watch thanks to a decent production budget and a quality director. The music is great (with a band which has Lowlife Love star Kiyohiko Shibukawa on drums!) and it’s just one of many music-inspired films released by us. It’s also one of many Third Window titles which we were the first (and only) to release in the West. I still love when it occasionally gets rediscovered and ends up in popular magazines as cult film picks!
“Lowlife Love” may be the most “third window” film out there considering the amount of work that went into it on a personal level. While I had worked as a producer on other films before, “Lowlife Love” was 100% an independently produced production, and I handled nearly every single aspect of it. From crowd-funding and raising money through selling a large part of my personal record collection, to casting, pre-production, etc., then into production using my own apartment for a location (and having to move apartment in the middle of shooting to have an extra location), as well as shooting in my favourite Izakaya and even personally shooting the Making Of throughout. After working with the director on post-production, I handled the Japanese distribution plus international festivals & sales by myself, then also handled press & marketing worldwide and even handled the websites, social networks (in both Japanese & English) and when it came down to the video release, even handled that for Japan and the West. The whole project took years from start to end, and while it’s not the best Third Window release by far (in terms of cinematic quality), it’s the most personal, and launched the career of director Eiji Uchida whom off the back of it was able to make “The Naked Director” for Netflix.
I’ve always been a massive fan of Miki Satoshi, and his films and TV shows always make me smile. I’ve released 3 of his films, including bundling them together into a box set, and while his ‘Adrift in Tokyo’ is a better film and more easily to recommend, Turtles is closer to my heart. Probably with the fact it was not only the only Western release of the film (still to this day I think), but it was my first release of a Miki Satoshi film and one of the first Japanese films I acquired in general. Miki himself loves Monty Python and classic British humour, and I personally think that those who love quirky and eccentric humour should all love Turtles!