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Les États généraux du film documentaire 2022 Doc route: Japan

Doc route: Japan

What does “modernity” mean in modern cinema? It is not sufficient to suppose that it means dealing with objects and subjects that are contemporary with the film. It is the conscience that one is situated in history and living “after” the story that allows filmmakers to remain with their feet firmly planted in the terrain of creation and to inscribe modernity in their work. This awareness does not depend on whether a film is documentary or fiction. The success of Japanese filmmakers on the international scene today cannot be explained without a reference to the massive production of Japanese fiction films in the sixties, followed by the decline of the “studio system” on which it was based. For the new generation of filmmakers coming after the recognised masters in a universe that has been completely broken up and a degraded system, their films are the end result of the quest for a cinema that is still possible rather than for any superficial novelty.
In the history of Japanese documentary film, Makoto Sato is the link between two periods, two generations. Highly sensitive and conscious of this notion of “after”, his films are the incarnation of the idea. Filmmaker and theoretician, he presented at Lussas a retrospective of the films of Shinsuke Ogama in 2002 accompanying the films Self & Others (2000) and Hanako (2001). When Sato started in cinema in the eighties, independent documentary film in Japan was moving from a “collective” to an “individual” style, and the subjects of films shifted away from the political and social to focus on particular lives. The production methods of filmmakers like Ogawa and Tsuchimoto who, in certain cases, lived in a place to make their films while living as a community and thinking at the same time about the screening of their films so that they might constitute an appeal to the society was disappearing.
Collective or individual? In other words, as Sato's film Self and Others suggests, the question is to know how to connect the “Self/soi” with the “Others/autres” — the consciousness of a “space between” ourselves and others has become something rare in Japanese society. In particular, following the 2011 earthquake, then Fukushima and the pandemic, relations seem to have become fractured and shared experiences as well as memories are more and more rare. The daily life of each individual occupies the whole space from which the other has disappeared causing also a form of indifference and even intolerance. Two films fight against this erasure, alongside those who attempt to resist and overcome their living and working conditions. Yoko Yamamoto's Living in Ratekawa and Tokachi Tsuchiya's An Ant Fights Back are films of battle, of a battle that they accompany over time, strengthening those who are filmed in their dignity and struggle, against unequal odds but obstinate and alive.

How can we recreate the “and/&” and tighten connections? Theatre 1 by Kazuhiro Soda is an attempt to “observe” the world in front of the camera in order to transmit it to viewers as “real” while superimposing his own method as a cineast onto that of the stage director. Is there still a necessity to film something today? In Toward a Common Tenderness, Kaori Oda questions the manner of reconciling his desire for aesthetics with a form of ethics for his cinema and begins in a certain way a reflection on language. Language is at the heart of the work by Saki and Hamaguchi who concentrate on the words and stories of people who escaped the unimaginable and unrepresentable tsunami. Here we are dealing with an “experiment” which constructs a protected space between the survivor and those who died, between telling and hearing, between the subject and the spectator, between fiction and documentary.
The supposedly glorious period of Japanese economic growth is finished, poverty is spreading at the same time as a feeling that something is coming to a close. Surviving after the catastrophe. In the wake of Sato, who filmed after Ogawa and Tsuchimoto, Japanese documentary films strive to resist and to escape the suffocation of our time. The film by Haruka Komori and Natsumi Seo is a gesture of hope, that of the transmission of a story for a future generation. Beyond, in Tenryu-ku Ouryoke Osawa: Bessho Tea Factory by Teiichi Hori, in a mountainous green tea plantation, we discover the light and the fog, the wind and the noise of the machines, the gestures of working women and men. We encounter the reflection of another world, something off frame, elsewhere, here.

Tamaki Tsuchida

A programme by Tamaki Tsuchida and Christophe Postic.
In the presence of Tamaki Tsuchida (Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival) and Yoko Yamamoto.
With the support of the French Institute of Japan and the collaboration of the Festival Fenêtres sur le Japon.