Yanagisawa Hisao

Yanagisawa Hisao was born in 1916 in Gunma, Japan. He joined Shochiku Studios in Kyoto to work on feature films but in 1944 after seeing Kamei Fumio's Kobayashi Issa (1941) he switched to documentary filmmaking. Until 1968 he worked at such places as Nippon Eigasha and Iwanami Productions mostly on industry publicity films. After 1968 he made a number of films on the lives and tribulations of the disabled which pose fundamental questions about the meaning of human freedom. In recent years he had begun work on a film about nurses but passed away on June 16th of this year at the age of 83. Yanagisawa took part in every YIDFF since the first one in 1989. His contributions to the festival included serving as a Juror for the Asia Program at YIDFF '93. His connection to this festival has been a deep and meaningful one and his absence will be sadly felt.

I Can't Bring Myself to Mourn Yanagisawa Hisao!
Shirai Yoshio

In order to mourn the documentary filmmaker Yanagisawa Hisao, I have no doubt it would take at least the space of a book. In particular, how to get down the qualities of thirty years of work that so conscientiously produced the five films about the group home, Children Before the Dawn, Night and Morning Inside Myself, Not This Way But That, Coming and Going With the Wind, and Pampering is not Allowed.

When Yanagisawa first started thinking about filming the group home, he spent a year on his own going back and forth to the facility, supporting himself out of his own pocket. Then only when his presence ceased being a bother to the residents and the staff, and the conceptual decisions necessary for planning the group home as a community for its residents became more or less complete did he start filming.

With a very small staff, the films each took a year or two to make. In Yanagisawa's films you will find nothing of the kind of documentary-like dramatization advocated by documentary theorist Paul Rotha in his phrase "the creative treatment of actuality." Furthermore, the large quantity of film shot in the course of making each film took yet another year or two to painstakingly edit.

Yanagisawa himself also took full charge not only of raising funds for film production, but for the post-production screenings as well, which took place at the group home itself. During the course of these screenings, since the director often captured points of contradiction in the facility, friction with people connected to the group home inevitably developed.
Finally, this is how I would sum up what Yanagisawa ceaselessly tried to get across by means of these five films. As he himself often said, "Wasn't it the goal of building a group home to provide an environment for people with disabilities to be able to live their lives to the fullest in some kind of a community? However once the facility is built, and the staff starts to work there, why is it that the staff starts locking doors, and the residents end up being controlled?"

This is a main theme for Yanagisawa, and it stretched into both his stance as a filmmaker, and his ways of working through his own search for meaning in life. How is it possible to do enough to mourn such a documentarist?


COPYRIGHT:Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee