The Japanese cinema was the first of the great East Asian cinemas to make its way out of the local and into the global. As early as the 1930s one finds Japanese co-productions with Germany, such as Atarashiki tsuchi ( The New Earth , 1937), while Japanese films were winning awards at the Venice International Film Festival in that same decade. Of course, these co-productions and festival appearances link Japan with its wartime Axis allies. Still, though, it indicates Japanese desires for an international presence in the world of cinema. This cinematic globalism is in keeping with Japan's more sinister and tragic desires for a global presence among the imperialist powers starting in the late nineteenth century. It may be no surprise, therefore, to find that Japan—the first East Asian world power of the modern era—is also the first East Asian world cinematic power. Its interest in competing with the advanced industrial nations for a cinematic presence both locally and globally was very much in keeping with its desires for territories and colonies. It is no coincidence, then, that very early in the twentieth century, a popular subject for Japanese films was the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), and that both documentary and fiction filmmaking were central to Japan's war efforts in the Pacific theater of the 1930s and 1940s, whether celebrating Japan's early victories against the United States or continuing propaganda efforts to convince citizens at home and abroad of the essential justifications for Japan's conquests. At the same time that these cinematic celebrations of war and conquest were being produced, Japan also created a cinema of unique beauty and sensitivity, and it is these films, made just prior to World War II and in the postwar era, for which the Japanese cinema is famously and justifiably celebrated.

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