currently working on an independent curatorial project, gathering contemporary
non-fiction Japanese films that explore senses of place and everyday life. The
project aims to offer audiences outside Japan a programme of films that give insight
and insound into how it might feel to live in Japan today. How it might feel, senses of place, everyday life… these terms are
interpreted broadly in attempt to recognise that everybody senses place
differently (every human, animal, vegetable, and mineral). Listening to the
diverse voices that make up place, the project attends to topics including
pollution, urbanisation and regeneration, immigrant labour, ageing, animal
life, and home.
to The Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University, Haden
Guest at Harvard Film Archive, Koyo Yamashita at Film Forum (Tokyo), Asako Fujioka,
and many others.
Watching a film can be like traveling to another place. We smell and feel the film’s sights and sounds, learning about other cultures and perspectives. Unbound from conventional plot or narrative, experimental non-fiction film enjoys freedom in conveying everyday life and sense of place. It can be made by anthropologists, artists, poets, and by you or me— as well as by trained filmmakers. Given the current global context of economic, political and environmental migration, places and identities are changing every day. Shifting patterns of landscape, language, labour and memory mean that attending to issues of place (and displacement) is vital for preserving peace, promoting intercultural understanding, and protecting the environment. This talk looks at ways I have engaged with filmmaking and sense of place through scholarly, artistic and curatorial approaches. It asks what exactly might be meant by ‘sense of place,’ and why should it be held in such high regard in art, anthropology and film studies. Drawing from examples from around the world, including films made at Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, this talk will attempt to identify some common threads that weave diverse filmmaking practices together. It will also draw from Japanese examples and discuss a curatorial project I am currently developing about Japanese nonfiction film and sense of place. The talk will be in English but please feel free to comment and ask questions in Japanese.
[This film essay tracks ways in which six directors have filmed Tokyo’s
transport system as a cinematic vehicle for exploring socio-economic and
political senses of place in the city. The voiceover is a collage of writings drawn
from anthropology, urbanism, and visual theory, while the images and soundtrack
are taken from the original films.
throughout these films by way of shots of (or taken from) Tokyo’s subway,
commuter trains, taxis and elevators. Different from American road movies,
where wide roads stretch ‘out west’ and evoke notions of freedom, these films are
routed and rooted in describing the densely built city and its defined social
practices. While on one hand they document journeys that are bound to iron
tracks and scheduled for commuting, they also sidetrack into territories of
its departure point the year 1960, Tracked also traces the profound influence of Japanese filmmakers (Ozu,
Tsuchimoto, Adachi) on their European successors (Wenders, Marker, Grandrieux),
and more widely, how Tokyo has so thoroughly captured the imaginations of
people in and outside Japan. A seminal decade in Japan’s social history, the
1960s witnessed unprecedented economic growth, continual political and cultural
influence from the West (particularly America), and an increasingly prominent
role for youth in society. As Japan’s capital city, Tokyo found itself in the
thoroughfare of such changes. While the renewal of the US-Japan Security Treaty
(1960), the Tokyo Olympics (1964) and the Osaka World Expo (1970) put Japan on
the world stage in this decade, many Japanese questioned the benefits of their
country’s supposed boom and, with increasing discontent, they took to the
the economic bubble, after the global financial crisis, and after Fukushima,
Tokyo is a very different place. However, certain tracks from the 1960s have left
traces. With Prime Minister Abe altering Japan’s military legislation, and
nuclear power plants being re-opened, people are once again occupying Tokyo’s
streets in protest. In 2020 Tokyo will host the Olympics again and is preparing
itself for a demonstration of the nation’s recovery from the Great Eastern
Earthquake (as did the 1964 Olympics, in its post-war recovery). The
Tokyo-Kanazawa shinkansen line and a proposed mag-lev train are just two
examples of the way in which Japan is mapping out this recovery and mobility. Down
the line, films that map the corresponding spatial and social effects of such
mobility will invite further ‘tracking,’ and couple to the rolling stock of
city films presented here.]
Ozu, Yasujiro. Late Autumn (Akibiyori). Japan, 1960, colour,
Wenders, Wim. Tokyo Ga. Germany/ Japan, 1985, colour, 92 min.
Tsuchimoto, Noriaki. On the Road: A Document (Dokyumento rojō).
Japan, 1964, black and white, 54 min.