Nippon Connection 2020: Documentaries

This post is an offshoot from the earlier this week and it focuses on all of the documentaries that will be screened. Check out each description to see if each film is available for worldwide screening because quite a few of these are.

Nippon Docs

This section brings together a really diverse range of subjects and themes like art and culture, feminism, workplace rights, mental health, refugees fighting for recognition and a man in a campervan trying to forget a failed love. There are three shorts and 11 features. Book-Paper-Scissors and An Ant Strikes Back are polar opposites in content and ones I want to see. Actually, I want to see all of these films!!!

There are a lot of great films on offer and many of them are available for global audiences to stream. Here are details on the features:

Prison Circle    Prison Circle Film Poster

プリズン・サークル  Pursizun Sa-kuru

Release Date: January 25th, 2020

Duration: 136 mins.

Director: Kaori Sakagami

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Website IMDB

This one is available only in Germany

Synopsis: A documentary that took six years to authorise and two years to film due to it being set in a prison in Japan. It is set in Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Promotion Center, a new public-private prison and the only prison in Japan that has introduced a program called “TC (Therapeutic Community)” that seeks out the causes and cures of crime through engaging prisoners in dialogue in a system that encourages rehabilitation. This is one of a number of educational programmes at the prison and one where prisoners must face their past. Audiences of this documentary will see the causes of crime the, bitter memories of childhood, such as poverty, bullying, abuse, and discrimination, as well as the crimes they committed, such as theft, fraud, robbery, injury and death. The camera follows the four prisoners in prison and shows them gaining new values ​​and ways of living through TC. Directed by Kaoru Sakagami, who has worked with American prisoners.

i -Documentary of the Journalist-i -Documentary of the Journalist- Film Poster

i -新聞記者ドキュメント-I – shinbun kisha dokyumento –

Release Date: November 15th, 2019

Duration: 120 mins.

Director: Tatsuya Mori

Writer: N/A

Starring: Isoko Mochizuki

Tatsuya Mori is a documentarian famous for the films A (1998), 311 (2011) and Fake (2016). He also acted as producer on The Journalist (2019) which is based on a book by the real-life female journalist, Isoko Mochizuki. She forms the centre of this film as she pursues the truth.

This one is available only in Germany

Synopsis: Traditional news media is in a spin as social media, financial forces and political tribalism batter them around. Maybe film documentary might be the best place for news if not for some of brave journalists still working for newspapers who are unafraid to look for the truth. Isoko Mochizuki of The Tokyo Shimbun is one of them as she asks all the awkward questions that keep those in power on their toes and ferrets out the truth. This in a country which is still patriarchal, in an industry which is male-dominated, in a media environment that prefers not to challenge those in power lest they lose access to government press conferences. Here’s an article about her in The New York Times (written by Motoko Rich) which gives an excellent overview of the environment she works in.

What Can You Do about It?    What Can You Do About It Film Poster

だってしょうがないじゃない  「Datteshou ganai Janai

Release Date: 2019

Duration: 120 mins.

Director: Yoshifumi Tsubota

Writer: N/A

Starring: Makoto Oohara, Yoshifumi Tsubota, Machiko Kimura, Yoshinori Kimura, Tatsuyoshi Tsubota, Yoko Tsubota, Masako Tsubota, Miharu Seki, Naoko Misawa, Hiroo Shibata,

Website IMDB

This one is available only in Germany

Synopsis: The filmmaker, Yoshifumi Tsubota (The Shell Collector), who has suffered from mental illness, records what happens when he is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at a psychiatric hospital. He tells his mother who informs him that he has an uncle who has Pervasive Developmental Disorder and lives alone. Tsubota goes to see him.

Listening to the Air

空に聞く Sora ni kiku

Release Date: September, 2020

Duration: 78 mins.

Director: Haruka Komori

Writer: N/A

Starring: Hiromi Abe

Website IMDB

Haruka Komori shot this film at the same time as Trace of Breath (winner of the NIPPON VISIONS JURY AWARD 2018) and in this film she followed her protagonist from 2013 to 2018.

Available to watch worldwide except in Japan

No trailer

Synopsis: Here, Hiromi Abe hosts a radio show in an area devastated by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. She reports on local events and interviews the residents, reporting on the rebuilding and also recording the personal stories of people in the area.

This Planet Is Not My Planet    Kono hoshi wa watashi no hoshi janai Film Poster

この星は、私の星じゃないKono hoshi wa, watashi no hoshi janai

Release Date: October 26th, 2019

Duration: 90 mins.

Director: Miwa Yoshimine

Writer: N/A

Starring: Mitsu Tanaka, Tomoko Yonetsu, Ramon Koizumi, 


This one is available only in Germany

Synopsis: A documentary pursuing Mitsu Tanaka (Wikipedia), a feminist who challenged the patriarchal structure of Japan and argued for women’s liberation in areas such as sex. 

Ainu: Indigenous People of Japan    Ainu The Indigenous People of Japan Film Poster

Ainu ひとAinu hito

Release Date: June 06th, 2019 (USA)

Duration: 80 mins.

Director: Naomi Mizoguchi

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Website IMDB

Synopsis: The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan’s northern-most island, Hokkaido. Up until the late 19th century and the Meiji restoration, they were autonomous but soon came to be absorbed by Japan in large-scale case of forced assimilation. Since then, the Ainu population has been in decline and now less than 20,000 indigenous people live in Hokkaido. With their culture under threat of being lost, this documentary aims to record some of it through capturing the stories of four elders who recount Ainu traditions, both past and present.

book-paper-scissorsBook Paper Scissors Film Poster

つつんで、ひらいて Tsutsunde, Hiraite

Release Date: 2019

Duration: 94 mins.

Director: Nanako Hirose

Writer: N/A

Starring: Nobuyoshi Kikuchi, Isao Mitobe,

Website     IMDB

Bunbuku, the production house set up by Hirokazu Kore-eda, is producing films by younger directors and one of them is Nanako Hirose who follows her critically-acclaimed feature His Lost Name with a documentary on books! It was at the Busan International Film Festival. Here’s my review.

This one is available to watch across Europe

Synopsis: Nanako Hirose spent three years (2015-18) following a world leading book designer named Nobuyoshi Kikuchi. He has been active for more than 40 years and has worked on more than 15,000 books. By following Kikuchi and the way he designs books by touching and understanding physical materials, the film looks at the manufacture and status of paper books in the digital age.

Cenote    Cenote Film Poster


Release Date: September, 2020

Duration: 75 mins.

Director: Kaori Oda

Writer: Kaori Oda (Script) 

Starring: voices of: Araceli del Rosario Chulim Tun, Juan de la Rosa Mibmay


Documentarian Kaori Oda studied under Béla Tarr in Sarajevo and while in Bosnia she filmed the lives of coal miners (Aragane) and also her own journey as a filmmaker and human in (Towards a Common Tenderness).

This one is available to view worldwide except for Japan

Synopsis: Kaori Oda travels to the Northern Yucatan in Mexico where she ventures around natural sinkholes called ‘cenotes’ and explores the past, where Mayans used them for water sources as well as sacrifices and saw the cenotes as a connection to the afterlife, and she sees how these memories inform the present of those living around the cenotes. She pushes her style further here in what look like beautiful sequences.

An Ant Strikes Back  An Ant Strikes Back Film Poster

アリ地獄天国 Ari Jigoku Tengoku

Release Date: June 06th, 2019 (USA)

Duration: 98 mins.

Director: Tokachi Tsuchiya

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Website IMDB

This one played at the Yamagata International Documentary Festival where you can read an interview with the director BUT it contains some spoilers…

Here’s my review.

This one is available to watch worldwide

Synopsis: Yu Nishimura (real name: Yasuhiro Nomura) worked as an employee for a moving company called Arisan Mark no Hikkoshisha. He joined in 2011 and was a full-timer and was one of the best in the sales department, unfortunately, he had an accident caused by fatigue from overwork and he faced a number of years of workplace harassment from his bosses including having his salary reduced, unfair dismissal, persecution and being forced to working at the shredder when he was rehired. He joined a union who helped him with a legal challenge to get redress for everything he suffered. This documentary documents his battle for justice and the director has his own personal connection to the case, the final result of which was reported on the Mainichi website. Full details on this website.

Sleeping Village  Nemuru Mura Film Poster

眠る村 Nemuru Mura

Release Date: February 02nd, 2019

Running Time: 96 mins.

Director:  Junichi Saito, Reika Kamata,

Writer: N/A

Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai (Narration)


This one is available worldwide except Japan

Synopsis: The mystery of the “Nabari poison grape case” involves a man named Masaru Okunishi who was convicted of killing five women and making twelve others ill with wine poisoned with pesticide. It happened in the rural town of Nabari, Mie Prefecture, in 1961. Okunishi was considered the perpetrator because he was seen delivering the wine and his wife and his lover were two of the women killed. He was sentenced to death. There has been a lot of dispute over whether he was the real perpetrator because his confession was taken after he was tortured and evidence was shaky. His sister fought for his release but despite beating being on death row, he died in jail. It has been 57 years since the incident and director Junichi Saito has investigated the case before in drama form with Tatsuya Nakadai portraying Okunishi in prison in the film The Lifetime of Poison Wine in Nabari Incident. This is his latest investigation

The shorts appear to be available worldwide. Here are the details.


Release Date: N/A

Duration: 19 mins.

Director: Kana Ohashi, Daijiro Mizuno

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A


Synopsis: Mie was diagnosed with stomach cancer while pregnant. She died a few months after her son’s first birthday. Her husband Daijiro captured images of her, themselves and their son Terasu together as a family before recording images of just him and his son as they transition into another family.

Proof of Family

かぞくの証明 Kazoku no Shoumei

Release Date: September, 2020

Duration: 34 mins.

Director: Yu Iwasaki

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Synopsis: An Ethiopian asylum seeker in Tokyo takes on Japan’s bureaucracy to prove his legal family ties to his wife and daughter.

Lost Three Make One Found

フォルナーリャの聖泉 Foruna-rya no Seisen

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 26 mins.

Director: Atsushi Kuwayama

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A


Synopsis: A pilgrimage set by a Japanese man with his Indian friend on an old van in search for a sacred spring to heal his heartbreak, explores the tragicomedy of otherness through diverse encounters, offering a glimpse of lives and memories of those in the regions.

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