In Memory of Kudo Mitsuru

Children Who Draw Pictures

(E o kaku kodomotachi)

- JAPAN / 1956 / Japanese / B&W, Color / 16mm (Original: 35mm) / 38 min

Producer: Oguchi Teizo
Director, Script: Hani Susumu
Photography: Omura Shizuo
Sound: Sakurai Zenichiro
Production Company: Iwanami Productions
Source: Iwanami Audio-visual Media, The Japan Foundation

Following producer Kudo Mitsuru and director Hani Susumu’s Children in the Classroom, made when Kudo was at the Japanese Ministry of Education, the two teamed up again to make this film for Iwanami Productions. They carried a camera into a first grade Tokyo classroom, and filmed a drawing class over the course of ten months, recording the children’s uninhibited behavior. The completed film screened in theaters, and won first place in the short film category of Kinema Junpo’s Best Ten for 1956.

The Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms

(Usuzumi no sakura)

- JAPAN / 1977 / Japanese / Color / 16mm / 43 min

Producer: Kudo Mitsuru
Director, Script: Haneda Sumiko
Photography: Nishio Kiyoshi, Segawa Junichi, Wakabayashi Hiromitsu
Sound: Katayama Mikio
Editing: Kano Shuko
Narration: Kashii Kuniko
Music: Iwasaki Koji
Production Company: Jiyu Kobo
Source: The Japan Foundation

In the mountains of Gifu Prefecture lies Neo Village, where there is a giant cherry tree said to be over 1400 years old. Stories surrounding this tree are told as we watch it pass through the four seasons. Spring arrives, and with it the tourists, bringing activity to the quiet village. The Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms is the first independent film production by Haneda Sumiko, who had made art films and special education films at Iwanami Productions, and Kudo Mitsuru, who acted as producer.

I first met Kudo Mitsuru when he was working as assistant director on Hani Susumu’s Children in the Classroom. It was a Ministry of Education project, and the system at the time was that a major film studio would submit a script which, upon approval, would be assigned to a chosen production company. The script submitted by Iwanami Productions was written by Hani Susumu. It was two pages of paper containing his plan for the film. Production was overseen by Kudo, then working in the ministry’s Audio-Visual Education Section, who had chosen Hani's project. Thus Children in the Classroom was born. It was a groundbreaking work that opened a new world for documentary film, and became the impetus for Kudo and Hani’s next film, Children Who Draw Pictures. Kudo resigned from the Ministry of Education and entered the world of cinema. He worked at Iwanami Productions for two years as a producer on my projects and those of Hani. He later founded Fuji Productions, where he produced films and TV commercials. It was around that time that Kudo and I married. However, I still worked at Iwanami Productions, and it would be another fifteen years before we would work together again, on The Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms. Things were busy while I worked for Iwanami Productions, but I was enraptured by this one old cherry tree, which I would film during the off-periods in which I did not have work. The forty-minute film was completed over a period of four years, thanks to Kudo, who arranged the capital and staff we needed for the production. I later retired from Iwanami Productions. Supported by Kudo, my producer, I was able to make the films I wanted to, even past the age of eighty.

Haneda Sumiko

- Kudo Mitsuru

Born in 1924. In 1946, he joined the Ministry of Education, and later began work on social education films. Leaving the Ministry, from 1956 he became in charge of planning and production for films made by Iwanami Productions. In 1958 he became a freelance producer involved in film planning, production and scriptwriting. He founded Fuji Productions, where he made documentary films, industrial films, and TV commercials. In 1970 he supervised the Textile Hall at the Osaka World Expo. In 1981, he established the production company Jiyu Kubo, which mainly made films directed by Haneda Sumiko. Kudo passed away in 2014. His most famous works as producer are Children in the Classroom (1954), Children Who Draw Pictures (1956), Chua Swee Lin, Exchange Student (1965), Mothers (1967), Funeral Parade of Roses (1969), The Cherry Tree with Gray Blossoms (1977), Ode to Mt. Hayachine (1982), Getting Old without Anxiety (1990), Kabuki Actor Nizaemon (1991-94), Into the Picture Scroll—The Tale of Yamanaka Tokiwa (2004), as well as And Then Akiko Is . . . A Portrait of a Dancer (2012).