All posts tagged: Documentary

Eye-On-Criminal-Engravement

Criminal Engravement – A Young Tattoo Artist Challenges the System (Working Title)

Why are tattoo artists getting arrested in Japan? Despite its rich history and tradition that dates back centuries, tattoo is one of the most divisive and controversial issues in Japan. A young tattoo artist stands up for his rights and dares to open Japan’s “Pandora’s box” that exposes a society that is fast becoming an undemocratic totalitarian state. Yamamoto Hyoe is following up his compelling documentary Samurai and Idiots – The Olympus Affair with another feature documentary this time focusing on a case barely being covered in local media. Once again approaching the issue from the standpoint of a Japanese who has also spent most of his life in America, Yamamoto is placing the spotlight on the impact this case may have beyond the reach of tattooing itself. Despite the popularity of Japanese-style body art abroad, tattooing still carries a negative stigma associated with the yakuza and therefore people with tattoos are often stereotyped as not being “upstanding” citizens. The stigma has also carried over into unscientific-like arguments over the sanitariness of people with tattoos which …

Eye-On-Gaika

Gaika (working title)

The principal woman featured in this movie begins showing the initial symptoms of mottled spots on the skin at the age of seven. The onset of stupor beings when she is 10-years-old. She is diagnosed with leprosy at 22 and the following year in 1957 she is separated from her family before being mandatorily quarantined at the Tama Zenshoen Sanatorium. 10 months later she meets a man also quarantined there with leprosy and the two are wed. However, sanatorium rules at the time stipulated the castration of any male leprosy patient who marries another leprosy patient within the facility. The couple have no other recourse but to accept the rule for the sake of their married life together.  Director’s Statement I was very young when I first learned of leprosy. People said “get too close and you’ll be infected by the disease” so leprosy was a very scary sickness for me at that tender age. I became familiar with leprosy in a proper sense in 1999. I was involved as a director of a one …

Eye-On-Shinjuku-Tiger

Shinjuku Tiger

Shinjuku, Tokyo’s leading entertainment district. From the 1960s to the 1970s, Shinjuku was the epicenter of social movement. Now, an old man people call “Shinjuku Tiger” exists there. Wearing a tiger mask and gaudy clothing, he can be seen walking all over Shinjuku each day. In 1972, when Shinjuku Tiger was 24-years-old, he determined to live as a “tiger” until he dies. What happened to him in 1972? Through interviews with the staff at a newspaper distributor where he works; personnel from Tower Records which used him in posters for the 1998 grand opening of Tower Records Shinjuku as well as the store’s renewal in in 2012; and shopkeepers in the Golden Gai district among others, the film uncovers the true purpose hidden underneath the tiger mask, and the important role the town of Shinjuku has played. A graduate of the University of Southern California film school, director Sato Yoshinori has directed two independent movies which have played throughout Japan (at self-run, alternative venue screenings) and abroad. This is his first feature documentary which looks …

Eye-On-Danchi-Woman

Danchi Woman

For the past 3 decades 85-year-old Uchikoshi Shizu has been living in the 50-year-old Seaside Road “Danchi” – the Japanese word for public housing – and filling it with a lifetime of souvenirs that have always kept her company. Due to the scheduled demolition of the complex to rebuild them as newer danchi, Uchikoshi and the women in the apartment are faced with problems of relocation and rent. Uchikoshi and her neighbors must say goodbye to their homes, and move into smaller apartments that cannot hold all of Uchikoshi’s momentos. This intimate documentary captures Uchikoshi’s sense of humor and profound nostalgia, as she sorts through relics of her past, choosing which memories she must fit into her new home, and which ones she can let go of. Director Sugimoto Akiko had covered this very same public housing complex in her independent film Seaside Road Danchi Story. Her camera turns its attention on the apartments’ residents as they move out and continue their lives in their new homes. Japan’s aging population has created a number of challenging …

Eye-On-Samurai-and-Idiots

Samurai and Idiots–The Olympus Affair

The whistleblower has often provided movies with an underdog character whom audiences can root for such as Russel Crowe’s character in Michael Mann’s The Insider. In 2002 Time magazine’s Persons of Year were three women, real whistleblowers who exposed FBI intelligence failures as well as corruption at corporate giants Enron and WorldCom. They were hailed as heroes for defying the larger entity to which they belonged in order to expose truth . In 2011, then president and CEO of the Japanese Olympus Corporation, Michael Woodford, blew the whistle on a 1.7 billion dollar fraud the company kept secret for more than two decades and was abruptly dismissed from his post by the board of directors citing “cultural differences” in management style. Instead of being hailed a hero, the few Japanese media that bothered to cover the story used the angle of this just being another example of a foreigner failing to adapt to the Japanese way. The international press, however, reported a brewing scandal in which Woodford’s ousting was done to damage control the effect …

Supersaurus-OchiaiAtsuko-Feature-Image

Art of Persistence

For many, movies are manufactured reality, a stylized representation of it even if based on factual events. True situations are the purview of documentaries. However, the filmmakers at Supersaurus, producer, Ochiai Atsuko (pictured), and director, Sakaguchi Katsumi, have pursued an unconventional authenticity in their storytelling which have not so much blurred the line between fiction and non-fiction, but warped their defining spheres. Established in 1999, Supersaurus–named after the giant sauropod in reference to their desire to plod on making movies until their extinction–has released only six movies in their 18 year history. Each dealing with human dilemmas, their filmography serve as both snapshots of people’s lives, and also mnemonics of the best and worst qualities of humanity. They accomplish this by employing a kind of home movie immediacy, no doubt a function of their small, independent budgets as well as Sakaguchi’s background as a director of over 100 television documentary news programs. His camerawork is intimate, yet never overly “cinematic.” The cast are usually relative unknowns or first time actors, but with intimate understanding of …