Cinematic Reflections Featuring Films by Oshima and Marker

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To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Okinawa’s return from America to Japan, our friends at the Japan Society in New York will host, from May 13 to June 3, Visions of Okinawa, a retrospective that “documents the dynamic historical spaces, Okinawa’s political and cultural life around this pivotal moment in history through in-person screenings and streaming films exploring the legacy of Occupation, World War II and imperialism.

We’re proud to release the trailer for their series, which mixes “mainland filmmakers, Okinawan natives and documentarians”, the series features Chris Marker’s level five and that of Oshima Dear summer sister, which I don’t remember showing in New York, let alone on a 35mm print. The Focus on the Nihon Documentarist Union (NDU) documentaries will be screened for the first time outside of Japan and broadcast worldwide (except Japan and Taiwan). Be that Go Takamine Heavenly view (another I don’t think I’ve seen programmed) plays like opening night there is no doubt that we will be digging.

See the trailer and lineup details below:

Indoor screenings

Heavenly view
Friday May 13, 2022 at 7 p.m.
Real. Go Takamine, 1985, 117 min., DCP, color, in Okinawan (Uchinaaguchi) and Japanese with English subtitles. With Kaoru Kobayashi, Jun Togawa, Haruomi Hosono.
North American premiere of the 2021 montage. Go Takamine’s rarely screened feature debut is a pioneering work in Okinawa cinema. Set shortly before the resumption of Japanese sovereignty over Okinawa, this leisurely-paced film tacitly tackles the complicated history of the island’s prefectural occupation through the story of a community’s preparations for a marriage between a local girl and a Japanese teacher. On the periphery of these events is Reishu, who quits his job on a US military base and uses the extra time to catch snakes and play with ants and get the bride-to-be pregnant. Screening followed by a reception.

level five
Saturday, May 14, 2022 at 4:00 PM
Real. Chris Marker, 1996, 106 min., DCP, color, in French with English subtitles. With Catherine Belkhodja, Nagisa Oshima, Chris Marker.
A lo-fi PC game becomes the driving force behind a mnemonic exploration of the past when a computer programmer (Catherine Belkhodja) is tasked with recreating the Battle of Okinawa. In dialogue with her deceased lover, she embarks on a haunting exploration of Okinawa’s history, navigating news networks filled with testimonials, interviews (including one with director Nagisa Oshima), eyewitness accounts and of archival footage, causing a cathartic convergence of thought, image and memory intertwined in Marker’s unique digital frame. Chris Marker’s latest feature film, level five examines the forgotten tracts of history that still resonate throughout Okinawa – a place that, as Marker says, has not forgotten the war.

Dear summer sister
Saturday, May 14, 2022 at 7:00 PM
Real. Nagisa Oshima, 1972, 97 min., rare archive 35mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Hiromi Kurita, Lily, Shoji Ishibashi.
Released the year of the reversion, Oshima’s latest ATG production features an unusually cheerful exterior with its distant passages to tropical vistas and cinema-verité naturalism. Teenage Sunaoko receives a letter from her half-brother, inviting him to visit him in Okinawa, and together with her guardian Momoko, she goes to the prefecture under the guise of a tourist. Their guide, a beer-hungry ex-soldier, takes them to local tourist attractions, quickly delving into the underlying scars of the island’s wartime history. With its contradictory and lighthearted tone, Oshima’s disruptive politics reveals tangles of identity, generational conflicts over Okinawa’s future, and the complicated nature of the islands’ history with Japan, all accompanied by the windy bliss and sunny from the windy score of Toru Takemitsu.

Yakuza Terror
Friday, May 20, 2022 at 7:00 PM
Real. Sadao Nakajima, 1976, 96 min., DCP, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles. With Sonny Chiba, Hiroki Matsukata, Tsunehiko Watase.
A fictional depiction of the Fourth Okinawa War (still ongoing at the time of the film’s release), Yakuza Terror locate the yakuza conflict in the days following Okinawa’s reversion, when invading mainland gangs wanted in on the action. Banned from Okinawa, director Sadao Nakajima Yakuza Terror features a psychotically unhinged performance by the late Sonny Chiba and would spark a series of productions filmed in Okinawan for years to come. Cultural critic Isao Nakazato would later write that “Okinawa’s struggle is depicted in the blood feud” of Nakajima’s headline-torn classic.

Untamagiru
Saturday, May 21, 2022 at 7:00 PM
Real. Go Takamine, 1989, 120 mins., imported 35mm, color, in Okinawan (Uchinaaguchi) and Japanese with English subtitles. With Kaoru Kobayashi, Jun Togawa, John Sayles.
The famous adaptation by Go Takamine of the famous Uchinaa Shibai The play follows Giru, a day laborer, who flees his job after seducing his employer’s daughter. Escaping the wrath of his boss, Giru hides in the mythical forest of Untama where he is gifted with mystical powers, transforming into Okinawan folk hero Untamagiru. Featuring the acting talents of Jun Togawa and John Sayles, Takamine’s essential opus of Okinawan cinema follows the film’s title character as he attempts to create an independent Okinawa on the eve of reversion.

Online screenings

Heavenly view
Real. Go Takamine, 1985, 117 min., color, in Okinawan (Uchinaaguchi) and Japanese with English subtitles. With Kaoru Kobayashi, Jun Togawa, Haruomi Hosono.
Go Takamine’s rarely screened feature debut is a pioneering work in Okinawa cinema. Set shortly before the resumption of Japanese sovereignty over Okinawa, this leisurely-paced film tacitly tackles the complicated history of the island’s prefectural occupation through the story of a community’s preparations for a marriage between a local girl and a Japanese teacher. On the periphery of these events is Reishu, who quits his job on a US military base and uses the extra time to catch snakes and play with ants and get the bride-to-be pregnant.

Focus on the Nihon Documentarist Union (NDU)
Established in 1968 at Waseda University, the Nihon Documentarist Union (NDU) was once one of the most influential collectives in Japanese non-fiction cinema. Stemming from the student movements of the late 1960s, the politically active NDU produced guerrilla-style 16mm documentaries shot with asynchronous sound and wrote extensively in film journals, magazines, and other leftist publications. The group postulated an activist cinema of anonymity – rejecting authorism and choosing to exclude individual names from their credits. But while contemporaries like Ogawa Productions have since gained international recognition, NDU’s groundbreaking work has remained in relative obscurity both in Japan and abroad.

In 1969, as negotiations for Okinawa’s return to Japan reached their final stage, the NDU traveled to Okinawa, illegally entering the prefecture to document the lives of people marginalized by the region’s occupation history. , exposing the contradictions and systematic problems present in Okinawa’s relations with Japan and America. Japan Society is proud to present two essential NDU productions shot during their stay in Okinawa: Motoshinkakarannu and Asia is ascreened for the first time outside of Japan with new English subtitles.

Streaming worldwide except Japan and Taiwan.

Motoshinkakarannu
Real. NDU, 1971, 87 min, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles.
Filmed over a period of 15 months from April 1969 to July 1970, Motoshinkakarannu– which takes its name from the Okinawan word for “business without seed capital” (a euphemism for prostitution) – captures a tumultuous period of Okinawa’s occupation. With reversion looming, the NDU chronicles a confluence of sentiments across the island prefecture, from anti-American riots to labor protests. An immediate and radical work, Motoshinkakarannu delivers an unflinching snapshot of Okinawan at the time, revealing racial tensions, discrimination, imperialist gazes and more through its raw immersion into the lives of sex workers, yakuza, tourists and GIs.

Asia is a
Real. NDU, 1973, 96 min, color and b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles.
Lost for decades, Asia is a was rediscovered in 2005. Shot during the reversion era, Asia is a begins first by capturing the changing perceptions of Okinawa and economic developments – from the onset of increased tourism and cultural preservation, to the exodus of islanders migrating to the mainland for better opportunities than this either for work, education or a better life. Composed of testimonials, Asia is a uncovers the history of labor abuse and exploitation by mainland mining companies since the 1930s and documents the Taiwanese and Zainichi immigrants who worked in these harsh mines, confronting the legacy of imperialism with concepts of border and identity on the vast expanses of islands that lead to Taiwan.

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