In Memory of Tamura Masaki

A Japanese Village: Furuyashikimura

(Nipponkoku Furuyashikimura)

JAPAN / 1982 / Japanese / Color / 16mm / 210 min

Director: Ogawa Shinsuke
Photography: Tamura Masaki
Sound: Kikuchi Nobuyuki
Sound Editor: Asanuma Yukikazu
Poem: Kimura Michio
Music: Seki Ichiro
Producer: Fuseya Hiroo
Production Company: Ogawa Productions
Source: The Japan Foundation

High on the slopes of Mount Zao in Kaminoyama, Yamagata Prefecture, lies the village of Furuyashiki, with only eight homes and their residents. The film unfolds like a grand historical scroll depicting the country of Japan, with a single mountain village as its stage. The first half of the film presents an exhaustive scientific survey to elucidate the causes of rice crop damage from cold weather, while the second half traces the personal history of elderly residents who talk about the charcoal-making that once thrived in the village and their experiences of conscription and war. The guiding spirit of YIDFF since its founding, director Ogawa Shinsuke and the film crew themselves farmed while making this masterpiece.

No Unusable Shots

I first went to Sanrizuka in the year 1970. After Summer in Narita. It wasn’t any actual struggle we were filming during that period—I helped out with farming every day for eight months, and we filmed things in the natural environment like bugs and snakes. Ogawa (Shinsuke) was nowhere in sight. Tamura was shooting.

I was called again for Heta Village, told that it would “finish in a week.” And I ended up living there for about two years. I think what was important about Heta Village was hitting upon the use of long takes. As long as Tamura shot what he chose, it would be used, as is. Ogawa wouldn’t even cut it up in the editing room. Any shot that went in, went in whole. Naturally this also meant that entire shots were left out if they contained footage not to be used. Once the camera was switched on, its gaze was fixed—resolutely—on the people, on the farmers. Even for me, the assistant cameraman, it was thrilling, and even subtly erotic. The scenes of the farmers became steadily more compelling. Under the gaze of Tamura’s camera, the farmers even gave the impression that they were acting sometimes. I think it must have been something Tamura came up with, knowing his personality, as they watched the rushes in the house where they were living together.

There’s a scene where a corps of young activists are charging a steel tower, where if you look closely, it’s out of focus. And then, suddenly, it comes back into focus. It’s clear what happened—Tamura was crying. He couldn’t tell through his tears if the camera was in focus or not. But it didn’t make the shot unusable. Nothing makes a shot “unusable” in a documentary shot by Tamura.

Kawakami Koichi (Director of Photography)
—from Eiga Geijutsu #464, Summer 2018

- Ogawa Shinsuke

Born 1936 in Tokyo. After working as assistant director at Iwanami Productions, Ogawa went freelance in 1964 and made his first film, Sea of Youth (1966), followed by Report from Haneda (1967) and others. He founded Ogawa Productions in 1968 and immersed himself in the production of the Narita series, which depicted the movement of farmers opposing the construction of the Narita International Airport. Continuing to make films from the standpoint of farmers, in 1974 he moved to the village of Magino in Kaminoyama, Yamagata Prefecture, where he filmed A Japanese Village: Furuyashikimura (1982) and Magino Village: A Tale (1986), while growing rice and observing life in the farming community. His dedicated work as an organizing member of the first YIDFF in 1989 was instrumental to this festival’s success. He passed away on February 7, 1992.

Tamura Masaki

Born in 1939 in Aomori, Tamura went freelance after working in a puppet animation studio, and debuted as a cinematographer with Summer in Narita (1968). He collaborated with film director Ogawa Shinsuke on eight documentaries in Sanrizuka and Yamagata. His other work includes Kuroki Kazuo’s Assassination of Ryoma (1974), Yanagimachi Mitsuo’s A Farewell to the Land (1981); Takamine Go’s Untamagiru (1989); as well as Aoyama Shinji’s Helpless (1996), Eureka (2001), and Sad Vacation (2007). He is known to have taken part in the debut works of such filmmakers as Suwa Nobuhiro, Kawase Naomi, and Suzuki Takuji. He also served on the YIDFF ’95 New Asian Currents jury. He directed his first film, Drive-In Gamo (2014), at the age of 75. He passed away in May 2018.