A Preview of Nippon Connection 2021: Documentaries

This post is an offshoot from the one published earlier this week and it focuses on all of the documentaries that will be screened. Most of these documentaries are restricted to Germany but two are available for many territories worldwide. Check the descriptions.

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Nippon Docs

The documentary films in this year’s NIPPON DOCS section offer insights into various topics: sports and cults, ways of living and the desperate desire to live free. The film are done with different formal approaches, from experimental narrations, ethnographies, and political diatribes caught on hidden cameras. They interconnect with cautious biographical observations to paint a picture of contemporary Japan. All films in this section are eligible for the NIPPON DOCS AWARD.

Here are details on the features:


Ainu Neno An Ainu

アイヌネノアンアイヌ Ainu Neno An Ainu

Release Date: June 26th, 2021

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Laura Liverani, Neo Sora

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A


Available to stream in many territories worldwide.

Synopsis from the website: Ainu Neno An Ainu, which means “human-like human,” is a documentary that reflects upon what it means to be an Ainu today, in everyday life practices. Ainu were not officially recognized as an indigenous people until 2008, after a history of both exclusion and assimilation that almost destroyed their society, language, and culture.

The film was shot in Nibutani, a small village in Hokkaido with a population of 400 people, 90% of whom are Ainu, making it the highest Ainu concentration of any town in the world. Located in the Saru river area, a sacred land to its indigenous people, Nibutani has always been a prominent site of Ainu history and culture, visited by foreign explorers and researchers as early as the 1800s.

The film is a “family photo album” of the people of Nibutani. Concentrating on a few people whose lives are intertwined, it addresses the sense of belonging in a community in the process of both preserving and reinventing its own culture, in the aftermath of a prolonged Japanization. Through this ongoing process, the Ainu legacy continues to shape villages and communities across Japan, in Hokkaido and beyond.

This documentary started as part of a photography project about the indigenous Ainu population in northern Japan, portraying people from tightly knit communities. They feel deeply connected by their culture and tradition. With gorgeous pictures, the directors explore how different generations of Ainu reflect on their identity after centuries of oppression.

I Quit, “Being Friends”  Tomodachi Yameta Film Poster

友達やめた。Tomodachi Yameta.

Release Date: September 19th, 2020

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Ayako Imamura

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A


This one appears to be available worldwide

Synopsis: A documentary directed by Ayako Imamura, who has worked on internationally screened documentary films such as Start Line. She is deaf by birth and through this film, she thinks about her relationship with her friend Maa-chan who has Asperger’s syndrome and finds it hard to deal with people. Ayako can sympathise due to her own situation. Through watching the interaction between two people with disabilities, we can see the various definitions of human relationships that everyone has experienced, and face the essential problem of how to coexist with people with different backgrounds.


Koshien: Japan’s Field of Dreams   Koshien Japan’s Field of Dreams Film Poster

甲子園 フィールド・オブ・ドリームス Koshien Fi-rudo obu Dori-musu

Release Date: August 21st, 2020

Duration: 94 mins.

Director: Ema Ryan Yamazaki

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Website IMDB

Synopsis: A documentary looking at the meaning of Koshien, Japan’s national high school baseball championship, where school teams compete to play on its hallowed grounds. An American documentary crew and director follow the players and coach of a team as they seek to win the 100th annual Koshien. The film was broadcast on America’s ESPN and screened at the documentary film festival “DOC NYC”. This is an especially poignant film because Covid-19 forced the cancellation of this year’s event.


Me and the Cult Leader   Me and the Cult Leader Film Poster

AGANAI 地下鉄サリン事件と私 AGANAI Chikatetsu Sarin Jiken to Watashi

Release Date: March 21st, 2021

Duration: 114 mins.

Director: Atsushi Sakahara

Writer: N/A

Starring: Atsushi Sakahara, Hiroshi Araki, Shoko Asahara, Takako Sakahara, Takeshi Sakahara,

Website IMDB

Synopsis: In 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo cult launched a deadly sarin gas attack in Tokyo’s subway system. Since then, the cult’s leader was executed and it was renamed Aleph.  One victim of th attack, the director of this film Atsushi Sakahara, travels with a member of the Aleph cult, Hiroshi Araki, and they spend time visiting each other’s hometowns and the university they both attended with Sakahara learning more about Araki. And so a relationship between two very different people on different sides of a deadly incident is born.

Sayonara TV    Sayonara TV Film Poster

さよならテレビ  Sayonara Terebi

Release Date: January 02nd, 2020

Duration: 109 mins.

Director: Koji Hijikata

Writer: N/A

Starring: Takahiro Araki, Ryuichi Ouchi, Yoshihiro Okada,


Synopsis: Documentarian Koji Hijikata (Yakuza and the Constitution) is back with another doc and this one looks at the current television through following Tokai Television, a private broadcaster that is trying to stay relevant in an age where young people have replaced television with the internet. Cameras follow the staff in the news department. The doc was originally broadcast exclusively in the Tokai region as a program commemorating the 60th anniversary of the opening of Tokai TV and it is now in cinemas with additional footage.

Sumou-do samurai o tsugu-sha-tachi   Sumou-do samurai o tsugu-sha-tachi Film Poster

相撲道 サムライを継ぐ者たち Sumou-do samurai o tsugu-sha-tachi

Release Date: October 30th, 2020

Duration: 104 mins.

Director: Eiji Sakata

Writer: N/A

Starring: Narration by Kenichi Endo


Synopsis: A documentary that follows the world of sumo, which has a history of more than 1500 years and is deeply rooted in Japanese life as a national sport. For about half a year from December 2018, the cameras have been in close contact with two rehearsals in the Sakaigawa and Takadagawa stables. It captured powerful images and sounds, and reveals the charm of sumo from various angles such as history, culture and competition.

The Witches of the Orient
Les Sorcières de l’Orient Film Poster

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 100 mins.

Director: Julien Faraut

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A


Synopsis The Japanese women’s volleyball team won the Olympic gold at the 1964 Games in Tokyo and achieved the record of 258 successive wins, a feat that remains unbeaten to this day. They were known as ‘The Witches of the Orient’ and achieved international fame as well as immortalisation in manga and anime. This status belies their origins as the team of a textile factory but that and their meteoric rise to legendary status is covered in this documentary which makes use of manga and anime sequences, archival footage of matches and training sessions, all of which is driven by rhythmic editing and great music from French musician K-Raw.


牛久 Ushiku

Release Date: N/A

Duration: 84 mins.

Director: Ian Thomas Ash

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A


Available to stream in many territories worldwide.

Synopsis: Using a hidden camera, award-winning filmmaker Thomas Ash interviewed inmates at the Ushiku immigration centre from late 2019 and exposes Japan’s uncompromising refugee policy which leads to human rights abuses.

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