Autumn madness: Kobe Doc Fest, Ogawa Production in London and much more

It’s again Autumn madness, that time of the year when there are more cinema-related events around the world than stars in the sky: festivals, special screenings, symposia, festivals, home-movie days and again festivals, festivals and festivals. For cinephiles around the globe it is at the same time a period of blessing and curse, which festival to go to? which screenings to attend? and how not to spend all the money saved during the year…
Let’s take a look of what the Autumn madness has to offer this year in terms of Asian non-fiction cinema.

By far the biggest festival in the region, the Busan International Film Festival, kicks off on October 6th and this year is a special one for BIFF, following the problems the event has been facing in the recent 12 months (you can read more here and here).
The line-up is as always huge and varied, and if we include the market, trying to follow even only a small portion of the screenings offered is an almost impossible task. Anyway, as South and Southeast Asian documentary is concern, these are some movies that will be shown and worth seeing if you’re in Busan:

Documentary Competition

Diamond Island (Davy Chou, 2016) Cambodia/France/Germany/Thailand/Qatar

Sunday Beauty Queen (Baby Ruth Villarama, 2016) Philippines/Hong Kong, China/Japan/United Kingdon

Time to Read Poems (Lee Soojung, 2016) South Korea

A Whale of a Tale (Sasaki Megumi, 2016) Japan/United States

Absent Without Leave (Lau Kek-Huat Chen Jing-Lian, 2016) Taiwan/Malaysia

Burmese on the Roof (Oh Hyunjin, 2016) South Korea

Farming Boys (Jang Sejung Byun Siyeon, 2016) South Korea

Neighborhood (Sung Seungtaek, 2016) South Korea

Railways Sleepers (Sompot CHIDGASORNPONGSE, 2016) Thailand

SUN (Won Hoyeon, 2016) South Korea

The Crescent Rising (Sheron Dayoc, 2016) Philippines

Documentary Showcase

Becoming Who I Was (Moon Changyong Jeon Jin, 2016) South Korea

Fake (Mori Tatsuya, 2016) Japan

In Exile (Tin Win Naing, 2016) Germany/Myanmar

Ta’ang (Wang Bing, 2016) Hong Kong, China/France

The Remnants (Lee Hyuk-sang KIM Il-rhan, 2016) South Korea

WEEKENDS  (Lee Dongh, 2016) South Korea

If you want to know more and read each movie’s synopsys, do please visit BIFF’s homepage: Documentary Competition and Documentary Showcase.

One of the most interesting festivals of the season, at least for me, is the Kobe Documentary Film Festival, a small and minor event organized every year since 2009 at the Kobe Planet Film Archive. This year the main theme will be “The pleasure of children movies” and as usual a wide range of movies will be screened, a fascinating program goes under the title of CIE Films (CIE 映画) where CIE stands for “Civil Information and Education Section”. Established by the Allied Powers soon after the end of World War II as a special section of the General Headquarters (GHQ), its task was to advise the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) on policies relating to “public information, education, religion, and other sociological and cultural problems of Japan.” CIE donated about 1300 Natco 16mm projectors to the Japanese Ministry of Education to be distributed around the country, and with them short educational movies from United States, Canada and other countries in hopes of implementing the process of democratization in the country through cinema. This part of history of Japanese cinema is an important one if we want to grasp and understand the subsequent development of educational film, and by extension documentary, in the archipelago. A first part of the program is thus dedicated to foreign movies introduced in Japan by CIE, Everyone’s School (1948), Near Home (1948), Beautiful Dreamer (1949), Freedom of the Press (1951), Experimental Elementary School (1949) and Nanook of the North (1922),  with other programs continuing on the same trail and presenting Japanese educational films produced from the late 50’s to the 70’s, science, art, environment and big events (like the Expo in Osaka in 1970) are some of the themes tackled in the short movies, including 5 works created in different style of animation (puppet and stop motion paper animation).
It is worth mentioning that a program is also dedicated to the less known works (about and with children) of Shimizu Hiroshi, on of the finest Japanese filmmakers of the last century, but one who definitely deserve more space and consideration in the world cinema community. A good starting point is this DVD box set put out by Criterion, and two sets from Shochiku (the first is the same as the Criterion one) and “amazingly” both come with English subtitles.
The Festival will take place from October 21st to the 25th and will be preceded by the Home-Movie Day on October 15th, if you read Japanese the festival home page has the complete line-up.


From Kobe to Tokyo, where the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival will open its gates on October 25th, South and Southeast Asian non-fiction cinema will be represented by a bunch of works, to keep on the radar the new endeavor by  Matsue Tetsuaki (Live Tape, Flash Back Memories), DDT: Dramatic Dream Team!! -We are Japanese Wrestlers!, a year in the life of a pro-wrestling group, Welcome to SATO, about a children’s center in the day laborers’ town of Kamagasaki, and Mamoru Hosoda’s Job: Animation Film Director“A Soulful Film Illuminating Hope”, a documentary made for TV (part of NHK’s The Professionals series) about director Mamoru Hosoda.

Let’s leave Asia and move to Europe, and more precisely to London, where from November 17th to Dec 11th the Institute of Contemporary Arts is organizing a retrospective on Ogawa Shinsuke‘s (or better Ogawa Production) works. I’ve written many times on this blog about Ogawa and the importance of his movies for the history and development of documentary in Asia (although not yet a long and more in-depth piece), and of course a must is Forest of Pressure written by Abe Markus Nornes. This is the schedule:

Thu 17 Nov: The Oppressed Students (1967)

Sat 19 Nov: The Battle Front for the Liberation of Japan – Summer in Narita (1968) +Sanrizuka – The Three Day War (1970)

Tue 22 Nov: Sanrizuka – Peasants of the Second Fortress (1971)

Thu 24 Nov: The Wages of Resistance: The Narita Stories (Otsu Koshiro and Daishima Haruhiko, 2015)

Sat 26 Nov: Heta Village: Rending Village Time | A lecture by Markus Nornes +Sanrizuka – Heta Village (1973)

Sun 27 Nov: Filmmaking and the Way to the Village (Fukuda Katsuhiko, 1973) +Devotion: A Film About the Ogawa Productions (Barbara Hammer, 2000)

Wed 30 Nov: Dokkoi! Songs from the Bottom (1975)

Sat 10 Dec: “Nippon”: Furuyashiki Village (1982)

Sun 11: The Sundial Carved with a Thousand Years of Notches – The Magino Village Story (1986)

If you’re in London, it’s really a chance not to be missed.


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