さようならCP 「Sayonara CP」
Release Date: June 18th 1972
Duration: 82 mins.
Director: Kazuo Hara
Producer: Sachiko Kobayashi
Starring: Hiroshi Yokota, Koichi Yokozuka, The Green Lawn Association,
Goodbye CP (1972) was the first artistic collaboration between Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi, two photographers who became a husband-and-wife director-and-producer team who have spent the last 50 years documenting the lives of people living on the margins of Japanese society and agitating against its strictures. Through recording those who live differently, their works have shone a light onto points of conflicts based on identity, history, and class, and they reveal the social fault lines that the establishment chooses to ignore. With Goodbye CP, the conflict is between the able-bodied and the disabled.
Shot at a tumultuous time of student protests and when disability rights campaigns were taking on long-standing prejudices and disabled people were hidden or, in some cases, sterilised, and also when public awareness of Minamata disease was high, Goodbye CP was made to be different. While other documentaries might try to curry audience sympathy through depicting their subjects with sentimentality or lionising their struggle to live while disabled, Hara and Kobayashi’s film addresses audiences in a confrontational way in order to shake up views.
Shot with a 16mm handheld camera on black-and-white film, Goodbye CP was a collaborative work created with its subjects, an activist group made up of cerebral palsy sufferers led by a poet named Hiroshi Yokota. We watch as he and other members of his group, The Green Lawn Association, battle against public apathy through fundraising, street demonstrations, and poetry readings. There is a sense of rawness and exhibitionism given to proceedings as we follow this fearless group out onto the streets of Tokyo and meet with all of the difficulties that entails. We are also jump cut into interviews with individual members where they explain with directness how they feel shame and discomfort when out in public and also how they are unable to participate in society.
Yokota, a particular focus of the film, allows his body to be emblematic of their ostracization. This is seen as he tries to traverse urban terrain while forgoing using a wheelchair despite suffering from severe CP. He allows himself to be filmed dragging himself around Shinjuku amidst huge crowds of people who avoid him, past cars that roar by at close proximity, and off trains that won’t wait for his frail frame to exit. During these sequences the camera is positioned at his height and the soundtrack is full of the din of urban noise so it all feels overwhelming. These techniques translate moments of physical stress. Behind the sensation is an overwhelming awareness of how impractical and limiting urban spaces are for the disabled. As for the public, they are shown through interviews to be, at best, pitying. This may also be the response of viewers watching from the comfort of a cinema or their home but pity alone can be insulting, especially in a society that dehumanises the disabled as we soon learn from the group.
The interviews with Yokota and others, sometimes done direct to camera, sometimes overlaid on scenes of public gatherings, complicate the subjects and also make them understood on a universal level. We get an insight into their private lives and see them as they go on group trips to the countryside or when one, Koichi Yokozuka, welcomes the birth of his child. We also get testimonies of their first experience with sex. This is a basic human desire that many viewers will relate to in some way, only then to get examples of how the subjects found themselves restricted by society’s boundaries. Some recollections are plaintive, others are amusing, one is disturbing in that a rape took place. They remind us that the people on display are human and this should short-circuit the performative empathy that we may resort to, the thing that allows us to conveniently avoid any deep engagement with others. This convenient escape is stripped away gradually as the images and testimonies make us reflect on how our own behaviour relates to the disabled.
Also caught on film are moments of defiance from individuals who argue about direction of the project, revealing that the group have some co-authorship of what is happening. While it shows they have agency, it also leads to a particularly moving and rather poignant aspect of the film as we become aware of the deleterious effects that the project is having on Yokota’s family. His wife is fully understanding of his campaign and yet she feels a sense of profound shame over being recorded like exhibits for others to leer at. It is a deeply uncomfortable moment to reckon with as a viewer but one that the filmmakers should be respected for keeping in, even if we feel that some moral boundary has been crossed, for it intensifies the sense that this group are desperate and a film might be their way to push the conversation surrounding disabilities forward.
By allowing these moments to be filmed, by collapsing the walls between the private and the public and by dragging these issues into the public consciousness and allowing the subjects the chance to express their own opinions, the film creates public ownership over this confrontation between the able-bodied and the disabled and a new way to discuss disability. Hara and Kobayashi capture a multi-faceted picture of their subjects without patronising or oversentamentalising them, by focussing on them and by forcing us to look (subjects are often looking directly at the camera) and by forcing us to listen (the original Japanese screenings didn’t have subtitles). Yokota imparts a sense of despair in an emotionally devastating ending but his efforts and the filmmaking choices of Hara and Kobayashi have the force to make people think.
Goodbye CP plays as part of a season of films made by Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi that is available to stream in North America until July 02nd.
A poem by Hiroshi Yokota (translated by Takako Pocklington)
You force me to live,
fill in all the vestiges,
force me to live,
force me to live while exposed to humiliation
Cold white fog
I don’t open my heart
That’s why I’ll pick you purple flowers this morning as well
I will not forgive you
Information about Hiroshi Yokota and the Green Lawn Association (in Japanese)