Camera Japan 2017 celebrates documentaries in this section. Japan is rich with documentarians who tackle a huge array of subjects and you cannot get a more disparate set of stories than here. Indeed, these films blow away typical ideas of what Japanese people are like by exploring subjects such as deafness, punk rock and gay prostitution. A deaf woman overcoming stereotypes through an epic cycle ride across the length of Japan, gay sex on offer in conservative Japan and the hetero and gay guys who sell it, a rock band recording strange sounds and encountering stranger situations. See the country as you’ve never seen it before and all from interesting and intimate angles.
All four of these titles have appeared at Nippon Connection over the last two years (three in 2017 and one in 2016) but I haven’t seen them programmed elsewhere so if you have a taste for documentaries and finding out what some lives are like in contemporary Japan then these three are going to be essential viewing.
Click on the titles to be taken to the corresponding festival page for more information. You can head to a larger overview of Camera Japan 2017 via this link.
Here’s the low-down on what has been programmed:
ギ・あいうえおス 他山の石を以って己の玉を磨くべし 「Gui aiueo:S Tazan no ishi o motte onore no tama o migakubeshi」
Running Time: 86 mins.
Director: Go Shibata
Writers: Ushirohiko Matsunaga, Yusuke Noguchi, Go Shibata,
A week before the launch of CAMERA JAPAN there will be a multidisciplinary evening at WORM, consisting of this experimental black-and-white film and a concert by Krautrock band Minami Deutsch.
Synopsis: Go Shibata and the members of the band GUI AIUEO:S travel the land and on their journey, they search for UFOs, meet odd hermits, and are introduced to the sustainable toilet. During their journey, the gang use their sound and film equipment like musical instruments and create an audiovisual work of art.
スタートライン 「Suta-to rain」
Running Time: 112 mins.
Director: Ayako Imamura
Ayako Imamura was born deaf and that has informed her filmmaking. After studying sign language at Aichi University as well as film and deaf culture at California State University, she has been shooting documentary films about the everyday life of deaf people in Japan. Her mission is to raise awareness about the discrimination of deaf people in Japan through lectures and film screenings. She also teaches sign language at Japanese universities. She has made many documentaries but this is the first where she is the subject and it looks epic!
Synopsis: Facing profound grief and despair following the death of her mother and grandfather, director Ayako Imamura decided to overcome those feelings by combining cycling and communication in one film. She travelled with her cameraman across Japan from Okinawa to Hokkaido, a total of 3,824 kilometers in 57 days, by bicycle over the course of the summer of 2015. Her goal was to confront and record issues deaf people face when communicating with hearing people and problems she felt that she had in this regard. While exploring her country she also discovered elements of herself and proceeded to grow as a person which can be seen in this documentary road movie.
売買ボーイズ 「Baibai Boizu」
Running Time: 76 mins.
This is a documentary produced by the American Ian Thomas Ash who is a skilled documentarian himself and it received its world premiere earlier this year at Nippon Connection and it will go to Raindance in London. As the title suggests, it’s all about the world of gay prostitution in Tokyo.
Ian Thomas Ash will be at a screening where he will participate in a Q&A.
Synopsis: A film crew travelled to Shinjuku 2-chome, a neighbourhood is considered to be “the gay center of Asia” and a place with a connection to prostitution since the 17th century. Here you can find the highest density of establishments catering to homosexual customers in the world, a place where many young and mostly straight boys sell their bodies. The documentary looks at a number of subjects and gets their backgrounds, how they were recruited, and how they live now.
お母さんいい加減あなたの顔は忘れてしまいました 「Okaasan Iikagen Anata no Kao wa Wasurete Shimaimashita」
Running Time: 103 mins.
Director: Michiro Endo
Starring: Michiro Endo, Mizuki Misumi, Takao Morishima, Takehara Pistol, Yoshihide Otomo
Synopsis: The Stalin were a punk rock band formed in June 1980, by leader and vocalist Michiro Endo. It was disbanded in 1985 and Endo went on to make new bands but The Stalin remained very influential for many years. Endo turned sixty in 2011 and went on a tour. It was around the time that the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. Michiro Endo is a native of Fukushima and a socialist activist according to Wikipedia and so he went back to his hometown and visited family to it, in the face of in Fukushima to survey the damage and was inspired to start the charity “PROJECT FUKUSHIMA!” This documentary chronicles his efforts.
Camera Japan 2017 starts in just under a months time in Rotterdam and Amsterdam and there is plenty to dig into so having the festival programme is a must. You can also read about the various films and events here on this site where I will have this guide complete with addresses and links to other, more detailed posts covering