Best Japanese documentaries’ poll – results

More than 2 months have passed since I launched the best Japanese documentaries of all time poll, it’s time to wrap things up and to take a look at the results. Thanks everybody for your votes, for your support and for helping me spreading the word. sdgblogBefore digging into this fascinating trip through the history of Japanese non-fiction film, let me add some overall thoughts.
On the negative side, I have to admit that I’m a bit disappointed that I couldn’t get many people to vote, and this is partly my fault, the blog is pretty new and relatively unknown and I’ve been lazy and shy about pushing it through the social networks world. Besides, Japanese documentary is a niche subject inside a niche (Japanese cinema), and there are not so many people interested in documentary film as an art form, so I should have expected this. Many people, most of them cinema professionals, were kind enough to decline my invitation, honestly admitting their lack of knowledge in the field. After all, one of the purposes of the poll was indeed to check how much exposure Japanese non-fiction movies have in the world of cinephiles, so I shouldn’t really complain too much.
On the positive side, I was really surprised by the deep knowledge of the voters, most of them, I have to add, cinema professionals: festival programmers, critics, professors, and so on.
Below you’ll find the list, when possible I’ve added some information about each movie’s availability on DVD/BD.
Thanks again everyone, feedback and comments are, as always, welcomed.

1)Included in their lists by 40% of voters
Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 「極私的エロス・恋歌1974」 (Hara Kazuo, 1974)
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Available on DVD (with English subtitles).

2)Included in their lists by 33% of voters
Children in the Classroom 「教室の子供たち」(Hani Susumu, 1954)
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Available in Japanese in this Iwanami DVD box

Tokyo Olympiad 「東京オリンピック」(Ichikawa Kon, 1965)
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Available on DVD in Japanese or with English sub, but the Criterion Collection edition is out of print.

Minamata: The Victims and Their World 「水俣 患者さんとその世界」(Tsuchimoto Noriaki, 1971)
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Available on DVD with English sub by Zakka Films

The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On 「ゆきゆきて、神軍」(Hara Kazuo, 1987)
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Available on DVD with English sub

3)Included in their list by 27% of voters
Without Memory 「記憶が失われた時」(Koreeda Hirokazu, 1996)
Without_memory_Koreeda
Not available

4)Included in their lists by 20% of voters
A.K.A. Serial Killer 「略称・連続射殺魔」 (Adachi Masao, Iwabuchi Susumu, Nonomura Masayuki, Yamazaki Yutaka, Sasaki Mamoru, Matsuda Masao, 1969)
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There used to be a VHS in Japanese….

Fighting Soldiers 「戦ふ兵隊」(Kamei Fumio, 1939)
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Available in Japanese on DVD (the quality of the transfer is pretty low though). Here my analysis of the first scenes.

A Man Vanishes 「人間蒸発」(Shōhei Imamura, 1967)
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Available on DVD with English subtitles by Master of Cinema and by Icaruswith 5 bonus documentaries made for TV by Imamura in the 70s (reccomended).

The Shiranui Sea 「不知火海」(Tsuchimoto Noriaki, 1975)
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Available by Zakka Films with English sub.

Antonio Gaudi 「アントニー・ガウディー」(Teshigahara Hiroshi, 1985)
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Available with English sub by Criterion Collection.

5)Included in their list by 13,3% of voters
For My Crushed Right Eye 「つぶれかかった右眼のために」(Matsumoto Toshio, 1968)
for-my-crushed-right-eye
The work is in the Matsumoto Toshio DVD collection – volume 2 – released by Uplink (now out of print?) in Japanese.

Goodbye CP [さよならCP] (Hara Kazuo, 1972)
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Available with English sub by Facets Video.

Narita: Heta Village 「三里塚・辺田部落」(Ogawa Production, 1973)
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Not available on DVD or VHS

God Speed You! Black Emperor 「ゴッド・スピード・ユー!」(Yanagimachi Mitsuo, 1976)
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Available in Japanese on DVD (used and expensive).

The Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms 「薄墨の桜」(Haneda Sumiko, 1977)
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Available on DVD (only in Japanese) by Jiyū Kōbō or in this Iwanami Nihon Documentary DVD-BOX

Magino Village – A Tale / The Sundial Carved With A Thousand Years of Notches 「1000年刻みの日時計 牧野村物語」(Ogawa Production, 1986)
magino1
Not Available

Embracing 「につつまれて」(Kawase Naomi, 1992)
Embracing_Kawase_Naomi
Available in Japanese with English sub in this DVD-BOX

A (Mori Tatsuya, 1998)
A_Mori_Tatsuya
Available with English sub by Facets Video

The New God 「新しい神様」(Tsuchiya Yutaka, 1999)
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Available on DVD in Japanese

Memories of Agano (阿賀の記憶, 2004 Satō Makoto)
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Available on DVD with English sub by SIGLO.

Campaign 「選挙」(Sōda Kazuhiro, 2007)
Campaign_Soda_Kazuhiro
Available on DVD with English sub.

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Best 10 Japanese documentaries – my list

As a reminder that you still have a month to join the poll “Best 10 Japanese documentaries of a time” I’ve put together my list. I left out many good and inspiring documentaries made in recent years (Genpin, No Man’s Zone, Flashback Memories and others) and I’ve cheated twice, but anyway:

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Fighting Soldiers (戦ふ兵隊, 1939 Kamei Fumio)

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Children Who Draw (絵を描く子どもたち, 1956 Hani Susumu)

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A.K.A. Serial Killer (略称・連続射殺魔, 1969 Adachi Masao, Iwabuchi Susumu, Nonomura Masayuki, Yamazaki Yutaka, Sasaki Mamoru, Matsuda Masao)

motoshinkakarannu
Onikko (鬼ッ子 闘う青年労働者の記録, 1969) and
Motoshinkakarannu (沖縄エロス外伝 モトシンカカランヌー 1971) by NDU/Nunokawa Tetsurō

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Minamata: The Victims and Their World (水俣 患者さんとその世界, 1971 Tsuchimoto Noriaki)

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Sanrizuka: Heta Village (三里塚 辺田部落,1973) and
Magino Village – A Tale / The Sundial Carved With A Thousand Years of Notches (1000年刻みの日時計 牧野村物語, 1986) by Ogawa Pro

akamata
Song of the Akamata–The life histories of the islanders, Komi, Iriomote Islands, Okinawa (海南小記序説・アカマタの歌-西表・古見, 1973 Kitamura Minao)

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Extreme Private Eros 1974 Love Song (極私的エロス・恋歌1974, 1974 Hara Kazuo)

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The Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms (薄墨の桜, 1977 Haneda Sumiko)

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Memories of Agano (阿賀の記憶, 2004 Satō Makoto)

Sight & Sound best documentaries – una prospettiva giapponese

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Lo scorso settembre la rivista britannica Sight and Sound ha pubblicato il risultato di una votazione, anzi due, una fra critici e studiosi di cinema e l’altra fra registi, per determinare i migliori documentari di ogni tempo. Al di là di tutte le critiche che possono essere rivolte ad iniziative di questo genere, la votazione dei critici è stata interessante perchè ha dato un certo risalto (non molto in realtà) alla produzione documentaristica/non fiction estremo orientale con il primo lavoro, West of the Tracks (2002) del cinese Wang Bing, al 17simo posto e The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987) del giapponese Hara Kazuo al 23esimo.

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Sfogliando la bella rivista però è possibile imbattersi in molte opere provenienti dall’arcipelago nipponico, citate nelle loro 10 best list da molti studiosi e critici e la qual cosa non può che far bene. Al di là del valore e della riuscita di un film come The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, personalmente di Hara preferisco Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, va notato però che si tratta di uno dei documentari giapponesi più visti e proiettati all’estero (anche grazie alle parole sul film espresse da Michael Moore) e che di quasi tutte le opere del regista nipponico esistono anche i DVD con sottotitoli in inglese. Questo non vuole sminuire un’opera così importante e riuscita certo, ma va gettato uno sguardo un po’ più ampio su questi risultati.
Per esempio, dei film di Ogawa Shinsuke, meglio chiamarli della Ogawa Pro, non esistono DVD per il mercato internazionale ed in giapponese c’è solo Summer in Narita (1968) e questo perchè Ogawa ed il suo collettivo hanno lasciato un buco di milioni e milioni di yen che preclude per ora operazioni di restauro e transfer in DVD. Anche di uno dei padri fondatori del documentario giapponese come Kamei Fumio, attivo sia prima che dopo la Seconda Guerra Mondiale, non esistono DVD per il mercato internazionale mentre va detto che i suoi film sono stati proiettati in alcune manifestazioni. Il collettivo NDU e Nunokawa Tetsurō poi sono un oggetto oscuro anche in patria, ma la loro produzione e traiettoria artistica e tanto importante quanto gli altri nomi citati prima più sopra. Insomma la disponibilità e l’esposizione di documentari giapponesi degli anni passati rimane davvero minima se confrontata con la cinematografia “classica” dell’arcipelago (Mizoguchi, Kurosawa, Ōshima, Yoshida, Kitano, ecc.).
Detto questo, fa indubbiamente piacere vedere citati tanti di questi autori (Ogawa, Tsuchimoto, Hara, Kamei) in alcune liste individuali stilate dagli studiosi e dai critici, che sia un buon auspicio per un futuro in cui il documentario giapponese e quello estremo orientale in generale, possano essere studiati ma soprattutto conosciuti e visti in maniera più estesa di quanto non succeda oggi.