Just a short post to announce that our friends at Zakka Films are putting out on DVD another interesting Japanese documentary, We Shall Overcome 「戦場ぬ止み」(Ikusaba nu todomi) directed by Mikami Chie in 2014 and nominated by The Kinema Junpo poll as the second best Japanese documentary of 2015.
As the American based label’s page states:
A hundred thousand non-combatants—one in four Okinawans—died in the brutal Battle of Okinawa at the end of World War II. Postwar, the U.S. military forcibly constructed military bases throughout Okinawa. Even today, 43 years since Okinawa’s reversion to Japan and 70 years since the war, 74% of all U.S. military facilities in Japan are crowded onto the Okinawan islands.
We Shall Overcome reports on what is actually going on right now in Okinawa. Today there are plans to construct a brand new military base that requires reclaiming a portion of a beautiful ocean where rare coral and the vanishing dugong make their home. Most Okinawans are opposed to this base, and have launched protests, on sea and on land, to somehow stop construction. Okinawa’s rage has boiled over. In November 2014, Takeshi Onaga was elected Governor of Okinawa in a landslide victory on a platform opposing new base construction. But the national government refuses to budge. It uses subsidies to buy off some Okinawans and uses the Okinawan Prefectural riot police against others, pitting Okinawans against Okinawans. Tensions build daily at the scene of the protests, with injuries and arrests.
Violent confrontations are not the only subject of this documentary. It also reveals the rich culture and way of life of people who have had to live alongside the U.S. military bases, the music and humor they have carefully nurtured in spite of Okinawa’s harrowing history. The film conveys to the world Okinawa’s wish that an end be made to seventy years of conflict.
Mikami is a journalist and filmmaker who in 2013 authored another movie set in and about Okinawa and the struggle of their people, The Targeted Village, the theatrical version of which was screened at the 2013 edition of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival. I very clearly remember that after a packed morning screening, many young viewers (especially women) came out of the theater in tears and moved by the experience.
We Shall Overcome is narrated by Cocco, singer and actress herself from Okinawa, cinema lovers will certainly remember her as the disturbed protagonist of Tsukamoto Shin’ya’s Kotoko and as the subject of a music documentary by Kore’eda Hirokazu, Daijōbu de aru yo ni Cocco owaranai tabi「大丈夫であるように-Cocco 終らない旅」.
You can purchase We Shall Overcome directly from Zakka Films website using Amazon payments.