Perspectives Japan

Can You Eat There, Die There, Love There? —On The Ethics of Watching

“I saw it—this single phrase is decisive for me. It embodies the fact of a one-time irreversible encounter. Moreover, I filmed it.”

—Tsuchimoto Noriaki, A Documentary Filmmaker’s Original Sin (1978)

The Perspectives Japan program has been selected this year from the vast collection of documentary films produced in Japan in the last two years, works that capture the country in distinctive ways. We believe that Tsuchimoto’s above words resonate with the films we have selected, in which the filmmakers had no choice but to be engaged—subjects who may only be met here and now have been sincerely confronted, and we are made to think about the world.

Men With Movie Cameras: Shooting the Great Kanto Earthquake examines both the power of images and the ethics of filming catastrophe. What Should We Have Done? is an earnest record of a family conflict that spanned two decades. The camera seems to ask, “To what extent is a parent responsible? How should they act on that responsibility?” Nihonbara Diary is a humorous yet important tale of a single family that for half a century has sought to convert a training ground of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force into pastureland for cows in the name of peace. With Each Passing Breath enters the world of rokyoku—a form of sung narrative accompanied by shamisen capable of invoking the entire range of human emotion. The film is a celebration of traditions and their passing down, for all who live through the arts. Oasis superimposes visual field recordings, one over the next, to capture the systems and sensations that live and breathe in the recesses of a giant metropolis.

These five films, in a variety of styles, all strive with fidelity and sincerity to share what it means to live, or have to live, in a certain place bound down by time.

Tsuchida Tamaki
Program Coordinator