In Memory of Peng Xiaolian

Manzan Benigaki

(Manzan benigaki: Kaminoyama—kaki to hito to no yukikai)

JAPAN / 2001 / Japanese / Color / 16mm / 90 min

[First Shoot Nov.1984–Jan.1985]
Director: Ogawa Shinsuke
Assistant Director: Iizuka Toshio
Photography: Tamura Masaki
Location Sound: Kikuchi Nobuyuki

[Second Shoot Nov–Dec.1999]
Director: Peng Xiaolian
Photography: Jong Lin
Location Sound: Kikuchi Shinpei
Location Manager: Ogata Mitsuhiro
Interpreter: Liu Hanfa
Production Cooperation: Yasui Yoshio

Editing: Peng Xiaolian
Assistant Editor: Mikado Sadatoshi
Sound Editor: Kubota Yukio
Music: Jomon Daiko
Production Company: The Kaminoyama Delicacy Benigaki Documentary Film Production Committee
Co-Producer: Shiraishi Yoko
Production Cooperation: Planet Bibliothèque de Cinéma
Source: Yamagata Documentary Film Library

Using film footage and composition notes left by Ogawa Shinsuke, Peng Xiaolian shot additional film and completed the work, which colorfully yet elegantly depicts the manufacturing process of the Kaminoyama red dried persimmon. It also features fascinating portraits of the people who invent and make the tools and implements for persimmon culture, and the spiel of the old women who run the persimmon trade. By giving this comprehensive view, it illustrates the world of this modest yet strangely charming fruit and of the people who continue to live in the area of Kaminoyama.

Dear Peng Xiaolian,

I’ve spent a long time working out what to write to you. It’s because I’m still confused, not knowing how to express my condolences, as I’m unable to come to terms with the news of your recent passing.

In the distant past, already twenty years ago, we made a film together: Manzan Benigaki. It took us three and a half years to complete it: a year and a half to find you, a year and a half for you to accept, and somehow a whole year and a half for a letter to even reach you directly. It took forever! But from the start of filming to the first preview, we moved at breakneck speed. I was nervous that the schedule was too rushed for you and your crew to be able to truly exist with the persimmon trees. But you were in the process of applying for a green card in New York. You were still editing the film when the notice arrived from the authorities for you to appear for interview.

You charged ahead with the film, exclaiming, “We’ll finish it in ten days!” and sure enough on the morning of the eleventh, you left in a cheerful mood, saying, “I’ll be back again for the sound mix.” And the work you had done left truly nothing to be desired. In any case, Xiaolian, led by the “Red Persimmon Trees” edit of the film left behind by Ogawa Shinsuke, you explored the area where the red persimmon trees were, and in late autumn of 1998, in that small room in a withered field, you cut Ogawa’s film with your own. Thus in early spring of 1999, the work that showed its face was Manzan Benigaki (full mountain, red persimmons), named by you, to whom it was born.

Among the sequences from the second period of shooting, I would like to praise the scene in which you revisit Mr. Konno Hajime, the owner of a bicycle shop in the village—it made me happy. Compared to five or six years prior, he had certainly faded physically and his hair was white, but he remained quite young at heart—you could see it in the jaunty new polka dot tenugui (a kind of Japanese cloth) he wore around his head. This is exactly where you see him enjoying taking part in the filming with your crew and its relaxed atmosphere.

Dear Xiaolian, Manzan Benigaki will surely go on to bring delight to many more viewers—it faces the future wide open. Goodbye dear Xiaolian. Let us be sure to meet again.

As the setting sun shimmers on the village of Manzan Benigaki . . .

Shiraishi Yoko

Ogawa Shinsuke

link See A Japanese Village: Furuyashikimura

- Peng Xiaolian

Graduated with a BFA from the Beijing Film Academy in 1982. Completed her filmmaking doctorate at NYU Film School in 1994. Her dialogue with Ogawa began in the summer of 1991, when she joined Ogawa Productions and shot an hour-long investigative film under the guidance of Ogawa himself. In the summer of the following year, she planned to return to Japan to shoot My Dream of Japan—Chinese Students Living in Japan, based on her investigative film, but Ogawa passed away in February 1992 and the plan was shelved. Her works include Me and My Classmates (1986) and A Woman’s Story (1988), which was screened in Japan in 1991 at the Chinese Film Festival. Her Once Upon a Time in Shanghai (1998), Shanghai Women (2002) and Shanghai Story (2003) are all set in Shanghai. She was also known as a socially conscious writer, and published books such as Shanghai Women. Peng passed away in June 2019.