Sennan Asbestos Disaster ニッポン国VS泉南石綿村 (2018) Director:  Kazuo Hara Producer: Sachiko Kobayashi

Sennan Asbestos Disaster   Sennan Asbestos Disaster Film Poster

ニッポン国VS泉南石綿村 「Nippon Kuni VS Sennan Ishiwatamura

Running Time: 215 mins.

Release Date: March 10th, 2018

Director:  Kazuo Hara

Producer: Sachiko Kobayashi

Writer: N/A

Starring: N/A

Website IMDB

Following on from their first – and only – fiction feature, The Many Faces of Chika (2006), Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi returned to documentary filmmaking with the release of Sennan Asbestos Disaster in 2018. It is a heart-breaking and infuriating document of the bitter legal battles between people who found their lives blighted by asbestos and the Japanese government who failed to protect them despite knowing the dangers the material posed. 

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A Dedicated Life 全身小説家 (1994) Director: Kazuo Hara, Producer: Sachiko Kobayashi

A Dedicated Life   

全身小説家 Zenshin Shosetsuka

Release Date: September 23rd 1994

Duration: 157 mins.

Director: Kazuo Hara

Producer: Sachiko Kobayashi

Writer: N/A

Starring: Mitsuharu Inoue, Jakucho Setouchi, Hiroshi Noma, 

IMDB

Released seven years after The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, you might expect A Dedicated Life to pale in comparison to that excoriating and exciting experience but it proves to be an enthralling documentary as it explores the myth-making of leftist writer named Mitsuharu Inoue and offers a fascinating and complicated biographical portrait of a larger-than-life personality in the few years prior to his death.

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The Many Faces of Chika またの日の知華 (2005) Dir: Kazuo Hara, Producer/Writer: Sachiko Kobayashi

The Many Faces of Chika    The Many Faces of Chika Film Poster

またの日の知華 Mata no Hi no Chika

Release Date: January 05th 2005

Duration: 114 mins.

Director: Kazuo Hara

Producer: Sachiko Kobayashi

Writer: Sachiko Kobayashi

Starring: Takami Yoshimoto (Chika Chapter 1), Minoru Tanaka, Makiko Watanabe (Chika Chapter 2), Seiichi Tanabe, Kumija Kim (Chika Chapter 3), Yoshikazu Kotani, Kaori Momoi (Chika Chapter 4), Isao Natsuyagi, Toshie Negishi,

IMDB

Following on 11 years from their award-winning documentary A Dedicated Life (1994), husband-and-wife filmmaking team Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi made The Many Faces of Chika, their first and only fiction feature. Although drawing from history, the mysterious nature of the central character makes it into an allegorical film about the male gaze, the subjection of women, and the destructive nature of passion, interlinking these ideas with the destruction of leftist movements. It has a dreamy air to it that stands in contrast to the usual dedication to realism that Hara and Kobayashi have consistently shown in their work and it makes the experience absorbing in its own way.

For this project Hara assumed directorial duties while Kobayashi penned the script as well as her acting as producer. This is in line with her first forays into cinema as she attended writing classes taught by politically active New Wave directors such as Kaneto Shindo and Nagisa Oshima in the late 60s and early 70s. Kobayashi’s screenplay for The Many Faces of Chika uses the cultural and political upheaval of that very time period as the background for a drama that has an experimental conceit: four actresses play the part of the eponymous Chika to portray the different ways she is perceived through the eyes of different men.

Chika_sub07

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Heroic Purgatory Podcast Covers Japan Society’s Cinema as Struggle: The Films of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi (June 04 – July 02)

Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi are a husband-and-wife team of filmmakers who emerged out of the Japanese New Wave and have spent their careers documenting iconoclasts and outsiders in Japan. Their films have had a major impact on filmmakers and now audiences in North America can view them from their own homes.

From: https://www.japansociety.org/arts-and-culture/films/cinema-as-struggle-the-films-of-kazuo-hara-and-sachiko-kobayashi

On the 50th anniversary of the founding of Shisso production, Japan Society is currently screening the films of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi in the US (and in some cases, Canada) via their virtual cinema in a season called Cinema as Struggle: The Films of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi (June 04 – July 02). This season contains many of their works (7 documentaries and 1 narrative feature) made during this period.

Thanks to the people at the Japan Society, I have been able to review the films and also talk about them on the Heroic Purgatory podcast with fellow writer, John Atom (here’s a link to his work).

In the podcast we cover each of the films in this retrospective series, starting with their first production, Goodbye CP (1972), their most famous work, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), the rarely-seen The Many Faces of Chika — the pair’s only narrative feature – and, briefly (very briefly because we had yet to watch it), the five-hour long MINAMATA Mandala (2020), which is currently on the festival circuit. I hope you take the time to listen to the podcast and get the chance to watch some of these films.


Here are links to where you can rent the films:

Goodbye CP    Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974    The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On    A Dedicated Life     The Many Faces of Chika    Sennan Asbestos Disaster    Reiwa Uprising     MINAMATA Mandala

Here are the prices:

Rentals: $10 / 20% off members

Bundle 1: $30 / 20% off members
Includes: Goodbye CP, Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, A Dedicated Life and Sennan Asbestos Disaster – Available in the US and Canada.

Bundle 2: $20 / 20% off members
Includes: The Many Faces of Chika, Reiwa Uprising and Minamata Mandala

 

Cinema as Struggle: The Films of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi (June 04 – July 02) – View Ground-breaking Documentaries via Japan Society

Currently underway at the Japan Society is a season of films made up of the works of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi, all of which can be streamed in the US (and in some cases, Canada) via their virtual cinema.

From: https://www.japansociety.org/arts-and-culture/films/cinema-as-struggle-the-films-of-kazuo-hara-and-sachiko-kobayashi

Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi are a husband-and-wife team of filmmakers who emerged out of the Japanese New Wave.

Hara started out as photographer with an interest in disability after working at a school for disabled children. Kobayashi was an aspiring screenwriter living with the effects of polio. They met when Hara had his first photographic exhibition in Ginza in 1969 with the subject being the pupils at the school he worked at. Their relationship grew quickly from being acquaintances to becoming artistic collaborators with the founding of Shisso production and the making of their first film – with Hara as director and Kobayasi as producer – before culminating in their marriage in 1973.

Influenced by the social unrest at the time and inspired by New Wave figures such as Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima, Hara and Kobayashi began to explore the lives of the underprivileged and iconoclasts through deeply humanist and challenging documentaries done in cinema vérité style. Their films are a realm where the camera not only documents what is going on but also acts as a tool to render their subject more open to intimate involvement with the filmmakers. The end result is that the “protagonists” expose their private lives in moments that move the film away from any sense of objectivity and moral judgements. Boundaries of various kinds disappear and viewers are left with a document that is quite revealing on both a personal and societal level but also challenging in how we regard the subjects and their position in society.

The film of Hara and Kobayashi have gone on to be highly regarded around the world with many documentary filmmakers citing them as inspirations. To understand the impact of their works, Japan Society has put together a career-spanning online retrospective that celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the founding of Shisso Productions. This retrospective series includes nearly all of the pair’s films, starting with their first production, Goodbye CP (1972) and culminating in their latest, MINAMATA Mandala (2020).

Highlights include The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, which follows a veteran named Kenzo Okuzaki who enlists his wife and some others to join him in a crusade to expose war crimes that took place in World War II; Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 sees Hara turn the camera on his own life and document the fallout of his marriage/divorce with radical feminist, Miyuki Takeda; and the rarely-seen The Many Faces of Chika—the pair’s only narrative feature. Also featured are their most recent works such as Reiwa Uprising, which charts the political fortunes of candidates in a newly established leftist political party, and MINAMATA Mandala, which was shot over 15 years and documents the legal and medical battles endured by the residents of Minamata, a city where some of the populace suffered the infamous neurological disease due to industrial wastewater from a chemical factory causing severe mercury poisoning.

In order to get a better sense of the season, the curator, K. F. Watanabe, gave an interview.

Continue reading “Cinema as Struggle: The Films of Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi (June 04 – July 02) – View Ground-breaking Documentaries via Japan Society”