Satō Tadao’s best documentaries of all time


Satō Tadao is without any doubt one of the most renowed film critics and theorists living and working in Japan today with a career spanning more than 50 years, a scholar also known and respected in the West through the translations of his writing and some of his books. In the last year Sight & Sound poll – the greatest documentaries of all time, Satō was one of the voters, here are his picks:

Nanook of the North (1922)
Robert Flaherty

The Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1946)
Chozo Obata, Sueo Ito, Masao Yamanaka, Dairokuro Okuyama

Night and Fog (1955)
Alain Resnais

Minamata:The Victims and Their World (1972)
Noriaki Tsuchimoto

Kenji Mizoguchi: The Life of a Film Director (1975)
Kaneto Shindo

Echigo Okumiomote (1984)
Tadayoshi Himeda

The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987)
Kazuo Hara

Kabuki-yakusha Kataoka Nizaemon (1994)
Sumiko Haneda

Fatherless (1999)
Yoshihisa Shigeno

Acid Ocean (2012)
Sally Ingleton


An interesting list through which I could discover some works I had never heard about before like Fatherless and Echigo Okumiomote, it was also a pleasant surprise to see listed, among some “classics” of Japanese non-fiction cinema such as Minamata:The Victims and Their World or The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches, Kabuki-yakusha Kataoka Nizaemon, a work by Haneda Sumiko, a director I’m very fond of and a filmmaker who plays an important role in the history of Japanese documentary.


On a not-so-related-note, in the March issue of Sight & Sound a piece on Sergei Loznitsa’s Maidan by Nick Bradshaw opens with a collage of stills from different documentaries on anti-government protests. Among them a still of Sanrizuka: Heta Village (Ogawa Pro, 1973), a nice sign that Japanese documentary is slowly infiltrating (again?) in the international cinematic discourse, at least this is my hope.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s