Kamei Fumio Retrospective [Feature Films]

Woman Walking Alone on the Earth

(“Onna hitori daichi o iku”)
- 1953 / B&W / 16mm (orig. 35mm) / 132 min

Director: Kamei Fumio
Script: Shindo Kaneto, Chiaki Shigeo
Photography: Nakazawa Hanjiro
Editing: Nagasawa Yoshiki
Sound: Yasue Juen
Music: Iida Nobuo
Art Director: Eguchi Junji
Cast: Yamada Isuzu, Kishi Hatae, Numazaki Isao, Uno Jukichi
Production Companies: The Japan Coal Miners Union Hokkaido Regional Headquarters, Kinuta Productions
Source: Japan Document Film

In the opening credits we are told that “This is a film funded by contributions of 33 yen from each coal miner in Hokkaido.” In 1929, men from poverty-stricken villages were sold into deplorable labor conditions at coal mines for three ten yen notes. The film depicts grueling work, lynchings, and exploitation. One day, an explosion claims many victims. One wife journeys to Hokkaido and takes up the hard life of a coal miner. A young man takes a liking to her but receives a conscription notice, goes off to war and is killed. After the Second World War, improvements such as the eight-hour work day, the prohibition of women’s work inside the mines, and equal pay for men and women could be seen, but the empowered workers were took ill and were injured one after another under a system to increase coal production for the Korean War. The film’s climax is the death of the female coal miner after a long life. A repatriated Chinese man places a worker’s flag he has received on her body. A labor song begins from somewhere and spreads to all the coal mining areas. Kamei tried to make a film that could powerfully express the light of human liberation. Filming began with the Hokkaido miner’s union cooperating to provide the three million yen budget, but the final production cost was 24 million yen, meaning that the project went far into the red. Both box office receipts and the film’s reception were dreadful, and Kamei left the world of narrative filmmaking to return to the world of documentary.

• Kamei Fumio Retrospective [Pre-War Works] Hiking Song | Shape without Shape | An Introduction to Radio: The Audience | School Broadcasting | The Geology of Fuji | Airspace [Pre-War Documentary Films] Shanghai | Peking | Fighting Soldiers | Kobayashi Issa [Post-War Documentary Films] A Japanese Tragedy | Children of the Base | The People of Sunagawa | Wheat Will Never Fall | Still It’s Good to Live | Record of Blood: Sunagawa | The World Is Terrified: The Reality of the “Ash of Death” | Living in a Rough Sea | Fluttering Pigeons | Voice of Hiroshima | Men Are All Brothers | Towards a World without Arms | All Must Live: People, Insects and Birds | All Living Things Are Friends—Lullabies of Birds, Insects and Fish [Feature Films] War and Peace | A Woman’s Life | Become a Mother, Become a Woman | Woman Walking Alone on the Earth [PR and Educational Films] Poem of Life | Invitation to Japanese Architecture | Penmanship | Quiet Construction Methods | Living with Ideas: A Profile of Sharp | Let’s Weave a Rainbow | Hong Kong, Taipei | Norihei Travel Manners | The Southern Cross Is Calling | Wishing for Tomorrow’s Happiness [Other Works] Underwear Makes the Woman | The Models and the Photographer | Kamei on Kamei: A Record of Yesterday’s Film Production Discussion Group | Human Conceit: The World of Director Kamei Fumio