Ogawa Production retrospective at Cinéma du réel (March 23-April 28)

This year Cinéma du réel, one of the most prestigious documentary film festivals, will kick off its 40th edition this coming Friday, among the more anticipated events of the Parisian festival there will be a special focus on Ogawa Shinsuke and Ogawa Production, a huge retrospective dedicated to the documentary collective that from the 1960s onward changed and impacted the landscape of non-fiction cinema in Japan and Asia. Part of the events celebrating and reflecting on the civil unrest and protests that shook the world in 1968, from March 23rd to April 28th, the festival and the city of Paris will showcase seven movies made by the group in the 1960s:

Sea of Youth – Four Correspondence Course Students (1966)

Forest of Oppression – A Record of the Struggle at Takasaki City University of Economics (1967)

Report from Haneda (1967)

The Battle Front for the Liberation of Japan – Summer in Sanrizuka (1968)

Prehistory of the Partisans (1969, directed by Tsuchimoto Noriaki)

At the end of Cinéma du réel, the retrospective will then move to the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume where will continue its focus on the Sanrizuka Series, movies documenting the struggle and resistance of the peasants and the students, united against the land expropriation perpetrated by the government in order to build Narita airport. The retrospective will last until April 27th presenting also the movies made by Ogawa Pro in its third phase, when the group moved to Magino village in Yamagata prefecture. The collective disbanded in 1992 with the untimely death of its founder Ogawa Shinsuke, a passing that also revealed the dark side of such a unique cinematic endeavor, Ogawa himself left a huge debt made during the years to support the collective and their films.

One member of the collective, Iizuka Toshio, will be in Paris to introduce the Magino films, and discuss his own movies and his relationship with Ogawa Shinsuke and the group. Curated by Ricardo Matos Cabo, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last October in Yamagata, the retrospective will also include other documentaries about the group, Devotion: A Film About Ogawa Productions (2000) by Barbara Hammer, A Visit to Ogawa Productions (1981) with Oshima Nagisa, Filmmaking and the Way to the Village (1973) by Fukuda Katsuhiko, and Kashima Paradise (1973) a French documentary about the struggle in Narita. An important part of the event will be the presence of scholar Abè Markus Nornes who will give a master class on Ogawa and lectures on militant film in Japan and Sanrizuka: Heta Village (1973).

If you’re in Paris, don’t miss this opportunity, experiencing Ogawa Pro’s documentaries on a big screen, in the proper contest and with proper introductions, is one of the best cinematic experiences I had in my life. Here the schedule of the screenings and lectures at Jeu de Paume :

April 3 (Tue), 18:30 Sanrizuka – Heta Village (1973)

April 4 (Wed), 18:00 Winter in Sanrizuka (1970)

April 6 (Fri) 16:30 Sanrizuka — the Three Day War (1970)
18:00 Sanrizuka – Peasants of the Second Fortress (1971)

April 7 (Sat) 11:30 Sanrizuka – The Construction of Iwayama Tower (1971)
14:30 Sanrizuka – Heta Village (1973)
18:00  Filmmaking and the Way to the Village (1973)

April 10 (Tue) 18:30 Dokkoi! Songs from the Bottom (1975)

April 17 (Tue) 16:00 Devotion: A Film About Ogawa Productions (2000)
18:00 The Magino Village Story – Pass (1977)
The Magino Village Story – Raising Silkworms (1977)

April 20 (Fri) 18:00 « Nippon » : Furuyashiki Village (1982)

April 21 (Sat) 11:30 Encounter with Toshio Iizuka
14:30 The Sundial Carved with a Thousand Years of Notches – The Magino Village Tale (1986)

April 24 (Tue) 19:00 The Magino Village Story – Pass (1977)
A Visit to Ogawa Productions (1981, directed by Oshige Jun’ichiro)

April 28 (Sat) 14:30 Kashima Paradise (1973, directed by Yann
Le Masson and Bénie Deswarte)
17:00 Sanrizuka – The Construction of Iwayama Tower (1971)

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Inland Sea 港町 (Sōda Kazuhiro, 2018)

Screen at this year edition of the Berlinale (Forum), Inland Sea is the latest documentary by one of the most interesting and original voice working in Japanese non-fiction today, Sōda Kazuhiro.  Based in New York, Soda in the last 10 years or so has built an impressive body of work, Inland Sea is the seventh documentary in his ongoing observational series, among my favorite Theatre 1 and 2, a diptych about playwright Oriza Hirata and his theatrical company, and Oyster Factory, a documentary premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2015. Inland Sea was filmed soon after Oyster Factory, in fact the town is the same, Ushimado, a small village facing the Seto Inland Sea in Okayama prefecture. While in the previous film Soda focused his gaze on a small oyster factory and the problems of surviving in a globalized world (you can read more here), in Inland Sea he follows three elderly people living in the village and their daily activities. Here the synopsis:

Wai-chan is one of the last remaining fishermen in Ushimado, a small village in Seto Inland Sea, Japan. At the age of 86, he still fishes alone on a small boat to make a living, dreaming about his retirement. Kumi-san is an 84 year old villager who wanders around the shore everyday. She believes a social welfare facility “stole” her disabled son to receive subsidy from the government. A “late – stage elderly” Koso-san runs a small seafood store left by her deceased husband. She sells fish to local villagers and provides leftovers to stray cats. Foresaken by the modernization of post-war Japan, the town Ushimado’s rich, ancient culture and tight-knit community are on on the verge of disappearing.

While, as mentioned above, the film is part of his observational series, from the very first scene is clear how Soda with his camera and his voice is an important and catalytic presence in the relational texture that is Inland Sea. As Nichols would put it, while Sōda is filming and representing a certain reality, the documentary and the act of filming itself becomes also an important part of that reality. More than in his other works, his voice and that of his wife and their presence is here a fundamental part of the movie, often the people filmed converse with Sōda and we, as spectators, are always aware of the relationship between the camera and its environment. Naturally all documentaries are works of fiction, to one degree or another, but to my eyes acknowledging the presence of the camera and its effects in a documentary shot in an observational style, is one of the main qualities of the movie. It’s a honest and ethic filmic approach that I really value as important, especially in the contemporary documentary landscape, an approach that stems also from the style and methodology adopted by Sōda:

I spontaneously roll my camera, watching and listening closely to the reality in front of me, banning myself from doing research or prescribing themes or writing a script before shooting. I impose certain rules (‘The Ten Commandments’) on myself to avoid preconceptions and to discover something beyond my expectation.

The movie is shot in its entirety in black and white, the only case in Sōda’s filmography, just the very last scene, a boat floating, is in colour. I haven’t read so much about the movie, I wanted to experience it without preconceptions, so I don’t know the reason behind not shooting in colour, but certainly this choice gives a very distinctive elegiac tone to the movie, and a flavour of obsolescence and marginality to the places and the people depicted in it. Compared to Sōda ’s previous movies there is, at least in the first hour or so —  the last 30 minutes are basically a very long and touching monologue of one of the old ladies, Kumi-chan — less talking and more insistence on the daily routine of Wai-chan and Koso-san, long periods of time are spent with the old man on the boat, fishing, and with the old lady, selling the fish.

By focusing on a place on a relatively far corner of Japan, far away from the metropolitan excitement that too often is associated with Japan, a place not yet forgotten, but on the edge of disappearing, and where the population is shrinking — the akiya (empty houses) seen in a sequence are becoming part of the present and near future of the archipelago — Sōda is also hinting, consciously or not, to one of the crucial issues of contemporary Japan and its geopolitical construction as a nation. That is, the parasitic relationship between sprawling urban centers and countryside, often forgotten, exploited (as highlighted by the situation in Fukushima or the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant), or reduced to the folkloric image and touristic destination of Japan National Railway’s posters. In a post on his blog last year commenting on the Ogawa Pro’s Sanrizuka series, Soda wrote that, I’m paraphrasing, the struggle and resistance to the construction of the airport, because of the thick dialect spoken by the farmers at the time, almost incomprehensible to a person born and raised in Tokyo, felt like an act of exploitation perpetrated by the central state towards its colonies.

Another aspect of Sōda’s style that really stands out in Inland Sea and a direct consequence of his methodological approach, is the absence of any explanation on the historical background and context of the subject filmed. His films do not offer any extra information about the people he meets and the places he shoots, but the camera and his documentaries are, in a certain way, an extension of his gaze. It is up to us the viewers to decipher and image what stories lie behind the landscapes and the people captured on screen, for instance we don’t know if the stories told by the very talkative Kumi-san, to whom the movie in dedicated (she passed away in 2015),  are completely true or to what degree they’re even truthful, yet this is life and it is here presented in all its complexity, sadness and beauty.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/250935060

Inland Sea – Trailer from Laboratory X on Vimeo.

Record of Blood: Sunagawa 流血の記録・砂川 (Kamei Fumio, 1956)

Before the battle of Sanrizuka to halt the building of Narita airport, and before the massive revolts of 1968-69, there was Sunagawa and the resistance against the expansion of the American base in Tachikawa (Tokyo). In the third installments dedicated to the struggle, Kamei Fumio, the grandfather of Japanese documentary, captures the clashes and fights of the farmers, labor unions and students groups (Zengakuren among others) with the police. The always useful YIDFF, a festival that held a huge Kamei retrospective in 2001, gives us more background:

This is the third film in the Sunagawa series following The People of Sunagawa (1955) and Wheat Will Never Die(1955). Making use of the second film in the series, it explains the progress made during last year’s struggle and then documents the state of this year’s efforts. On October 12, 1956, 53 surveyors and 1,300 armed police rushed the gathered union and Zen Gaku Ren (the All Japan Federation of Self-Governing Students Associations) members who then formed a scrum to protect themselves. 278 people from both sides were injured. On the 13th, at the protest’s peak, 5,000 workers and Zen Gaku Ren members had been mobilized when the police attacked the demonstrators’ picket lines. 844 protesters and 80 police were injured. Public opinion erupted against the the violence of the armed police and the government’s lack of a policy, and on the 14th, the radio suddenly announced that the government would stop its survey. Sunagawa overflowed with joy and excitement, and a victory demo was held. On the 15th, a National People’s Rally was held to celebrate the victory of Sunagawa’s fight against the base, and protesters who had sustained grave injuries came from the hospital to address the meeting.

Stylistically the movie has many of the elements that would be used by Ogawa and his group in their Narita/Sanrizuka series: hand-held camera scenes of pure chaos shot in the midst of the fights, but also moments of peace when traditional songs are sung and meals are communally eaten by farmers, students and labor union members.
Here is a short but impactful scene of one of the first clashes between the protesters and the police in the Autumn of 1956:

It is interesting to notice that two points of view are here used to depict the situation: one that shows the fight from the outside, from a certain distance that is, and the other where the camera is engulfed by the bodies of the participants and is actively part of them. The gaze of the movie is without any doubts on the side of the inhabitants of Sunagawa, an aesthetic statement that reflects and results from the choice by the cameraman and the crew to live together with the farmers and students for several months.

Here, like in many other of his documentaries, Kamei also uses narration, but the voice explaining the timeline of the facts and commenting on what is going on on screen, sometimes with emphasis, is that of a female. In the film and in the struggle, Women, mainly middle-aged or old farmers, are always on the front-line and a vital part of the resistance, like in the documentaries about Sanrizuka (although infamously they were not an active part of the Ogawa collective itself).

It is also worth noting how the Sunagawa struggle is one of the few battles against the state/power in Japan that in the end was won by the people. If it is true that in 1959 the Supreme Court overturned the previous decision of the Tokyo District Court that found all the U.S. bases on Japanese land unconstitutional, in 1968 the plan for the extension of the base was cancelled, and finally in 1977 the base was given back to Japan. As pointed out by Dustin Wright “Without the farmers of Sunagawa, the Anpo (Japan-U.S. security treaty) protests of 1960 would have been something else entirely”, equally I think it is not too far fetched to say that without Kamei Fumio and his works on the Sunagawa struggle, the Sanrizuka/Narita series and consequently the post-war Japanese documentary landscape would have been something completely different.

Record of Blood: Sunagawa is available on DVD in Japan (no English subtitles) as a part of this box set released by Iwanami Shoten.

On Kamei’s Fighting Soldiers (戦ふ兵隊 1939)

From the archives: Kamei, Hani and Ogawa in two Italian publications (1967, 1970)

The Centro sperimentale di cinematografia (Experimental film centre) in Rome is one of the oldest cinema schools in the world and the oldest in Europe, founded in 1935 the centre nourished and helped establishing, in different degrees, the career of many important filmmakers, photographers and actors. Japanese director Masumura Yasuzō famously studied at the school for about two years at the beginning of the 1950s under luminaries such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti, an experience that without doubt helped shaping his approach to cinema and his views as a filmmaker.
In 1937 the centre started to publish its own film journal, Bianco e Nero, a monthly magazine that is still been published to this day. A couple of years back I bought online a copy from 1967 (February) that has an article, penned by film critic Claudio Bertieri, on the documentaries of Hani Susumu and Kamei Fumio. In November of the previous year the Festival dei Popoli in Florence, an event dedicated to non-fiction still running today, presented a mini-retrospective on Japanese documentary, and Bertieri discusses in the short article, titled Susumu Hani, Fumio Kamei ed il documentario giapponese (Susumu Hani, Fumio Kamei and Japanese documentary), the movie he was able to see at the festival. He devotes most of the article on Hani, Yuki Matsuri (1953),  Children in the Classroom (1954), Children Who Draw (1955), Twins in the Class (1956) and Hōryū-ji (1958) are the documentaries here analysed, while the rest of the piece is spent examining Kamei’s It’s Good to Live (1956) and The World of Yukara (1964), a trilogy about Ainu’s traditions. Although written in 1967 — a period when Japanese documentaries certainly were not known or available to watch as they are today (well, they are not that discussed even today…) — and with few dated observations here and there, most of the analysis remain solid to this day. Documentary as opposed to mainstream cinema ‘the man in the street here [in Europe] has not seen Louisiana Story, in Japan he does not know Hani or Kamei’, Hani’s ability to capture moments of pure innocence in children, or Kamei sensibility when portraying human suffering are spot-on insights.

Even more interesting, but for different reasons, is Cinema: Giappone e Zengakuren (Cinema: Japan and Zengakuren) a short book published in 1970 by Samonà e Savelli, later Savelli – La Nuova Sinistra, a publisher established in 1963 and the first to directly represent the extra-parliamentary left-wing in the Italian publishing world. Over the next decade the books printed by Savelli – La Nuova Sinistra, also fueled by political and social unrest in the peninsula, would gain momentum and become a cultural reference point for left-wing groups such as Potere Operaio and Lotta Continua , and for the newspaper Il Manifesto.

The book is devoted to Ogawa Shinsuke’s The Battle Front for the Liberation of Japan – Summer in Narita (1968), the first movie in the Narita/Sanrizuka Series. A brief introduction that outlines the Japanese political situation and the fierce resistance by the peasants and the students, is followed by a translation of some writings by members of Ogawa Production, just a couple of paragraphs nothing more, while the main part of the volume is a transcription of the dialogues spoken in the film. It was a period where the revolutionary cinema(s) of the globe were connecting to each other and were trying to build a common front against capitalism, the people in power and the establishment. The back cover is in this regard illuminating: Comitato di Cinema e Rivoluzione: Baldelli, Filippi, Ivens, Ogawa, Rocha, Solanas, Straub (Cinema and Revolution’s committee: Baldelli, Filippi, Ivens, Ogawa, Rocha, Solanas, Straub).

Reading these two publications after almost 50 years since they were originally printed was a very fascinating discovery, Ogawa and Kamei are two of the most important documentarists in the history of world cinema and essentially the reason this blog exists. Cinema: Japan and Zengakuren in particular is revelatory not as much for the information it contains, there are some mistakes of course — in the pre-internet age Japan was still a land far away and often misrepresented — but more as an artifact of an era long gone but still able to resonate with our present. An era when the arts were explicitly politicized, in a state of never-ending struggle and ready to change the world.

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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.

tiff2016-yoko

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.

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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.

Ogawa Production’s Sanrizuka Series – DVD Box set is out today

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Known outside Japan as the Narita series, the works made by Ogawa Shinsuke and his collective from 1968 to 1973 (with a return to the area in 1977) filming the battle and resistance of farmers, students, activists against the building of Narita airport, are usually called in Japan the Sanrizuka series, from the name of the area where the main struggle and land expropriation took place (an ongiing battle that is not over, by the way). As written briefly in a previous post, the Japanese label DIG is putting out on DVD all the documentaries of Ogawa Production, the first 3 films were released in June, and today (July 2nd) DIG is also releasing a DVD box set of the Sanrizuka/Narita series. Here’s the list of the works included in the box set:

  1.  Summer in Narita『日本解放戦線 三里塚の夏』(1968)
  2. Winter in Narita 『日本解放戦線 三里塚』(1970)
  3.  Three Day War in Narita『三里塚 第三次強制測量阻止斗争』(1970)
  4.  Narita: Peasants of the Second Fortress『三里塚 第二砦の人々』(1971)
  5. Narita: The Building of Iwayama Tower  『三里塚 岩山に鉄塔が出来た』(1972)
  6. Narita: Heta Village 『三里塚 辺田部落』(1973)
  7. Narita: The Sky of May  『三里塚 五月の空 里のかよい路』(1977)
  8. as an extra work, available only in the box set: Fimmaking and the Way to the Village (1973, Fukuda Katsuhiko)『映画作りとむらへの道』(1973)

The box set comes with a booklet where each movie is introduced and a final note by renown documentarist Hara Kazuo. I haven’t had the chance to watch them yet, so I can’t say anything about the transfer*.
All the DVDs don’t have English subtitles, but that fact that finally these important documentaries are available on home-video basically for the first time, the only Summer in Narita was released with a book a couple of years ago, is something to rejoice. My hope is that some label outside Japan (maybe Zakka Films or even Icarus Films, why not?) will one day in the near future put together an international edition.

* July 4th addendum: I’ve watched some minutes of Heta Village, The Building of Iwayama Tower and Narita: Peasants of the Second Fortress just to get an idea of the transfer’s quality. As I expected the DVDs mirror the quality of the original prints – I’ve seen them all on the big screen, but many times on quite battered DVD samples, so my memory might trick me here. Be that as it may, the movies are not in a good state, lots of scratches, flecks and dirt, in a perfect world they would have had a restoration first and they would have been transferred on DVD only later. But we don’t live in a perfect world and the huge debt left by the group is still hindering any “normal” process of preserving and presenting the works in a pristine state. That being said,  this release is an important step anyway, because it will help to introduce Owaga Pro and its documentaries to a wider and younger audience, and just for this reason it’s a project that should be praised.

Ogawa Production’s documentaries finally on DVD

 
I’ve often written, here and elsewhere, about Ogawa Pro and the documentaries made by the collective, first in Sanrizuka – documenting the resistance of the peasants against the construction of Narita airport – and later in Yamagata. A couple of days ago through social networs I found out that finally all the works produced by the collective will see the light on DVD, a project by the Japanese label DIG. First, on June 2nd, we will get 3 of the early documentaries: A Sea of Youth (青年の海, 1966), The Oppressed Students (圧殺の森 高崎経済大学闘争の記録, 1967) and  A Report From Haneda 現認報告書 羽田闘争の記録, 1967) and later, presumably in one or two years, all the 20 documentaries made between 1966 and 1986 by the group. The news is big, at least for me, and although I have sample DVDs of many of the movies shot in Sanrizuka and Yamagata, copies kindly given to me by the festival people in Yamagata, it will be nice to have the films  “neatly transferred” on DVDs, the samples I have being a copy of a copy of a copy of a VHS. But here comes my biggest concern about this otherwise great news, will the transfer be really a proper one? Almost all the documentaries are shot in 16mm and I’m not really sure about the condition of the originals, in an ideal world we should see them first lovingly restored and then made them available for the home-video release. But the huge debt left by Ogawa complicates everything, what we’re likely to get is something close to the DVD of Kamei Fumio‘s Fighting Soldiers, a bare bones release, watchable of course but with a poor transfer, in the particular case probably due to the condition of the source material. The docs will not have English subtitles, adding them would have helped to “spread the word” of Ogawa Production to a wider international audience, but again, we don’t live in an ideal world and we should be happy and content with what we will get. Be that as it may, I’m pretty excited about this and I’ll write again about the project, the image quality, etc. when I get more information or in June, the time of the first releases. 

You can preorder the DVDs here