JAPAN / 2023 / Japanese / Color / DCP / 53 min

- Director, Editing, Sound Design: Oda Kaori
Photography: Takano Yoshiko
Sound, Technical Direction, DI Colorist: Nagasaki Hayato
Lighting: Hiraya Risa
Assistant Director and Assistant Camera, Researcher: Torii Yuto
Presented by: Toyonaka Arts Project
Commissioned by: Toyonaka Performing Arts Center Designated administrator
Production Coordinator: Oda Eriko
Producers: Tsutsui Ryohei, Sugihara Eijun
Appearances:: Matsunaga Mitsuo, Yoshigai Nao
Production Company: trixta
Produced by: Toyonaka Performing Arts Center

Gama—the natural caves where many local people lost their lives in the Battle of Okinawa. In the gloom of the limestone caves, Matsunaga, who works as a guide recovering remains and passing along testimonies of war, speaks to the camera, describing episodes from history. When he is finished talking, he suddenly says, “The next part is in the dark,” and turns off his flashlight. At that moment, the screen also blacks out, and the sound of water dripping rings out. At Matsunaga’s side, a woman in blue clothes stands motionless, and through the movement of her body, embodies the presence of the spirits of the dead, and the gaze of people in the present day. Oda Kaori, who often makes films about memories that took place below ground, portrays in mellow images the multilayered world of gama where the past and the present intersect. (MA)

[Director’s Statement] It will soon be about three years since I first started working on a film (Underground) that has taken me to underground sites across Japan. GAMA serves as the Okinawa segment of that film but I have been given the opportunity to screen it in Yamagata, as a standalone film, separate from the project as I planned it.

GAMA was shot from beginning to end in Okinawa but I initially made the film thanks in large part to a partnership with the Toyonaka Performing Arts Center. When I came to a dead end while researching underground sites in Toyonaka, I learned that there was a connection between Toyonaka and Okinawa (I hope to go into more detail about the connection another time). My area of research started to go in the direction of underground spaces in Okinawa and I descended into Okinawa’s underground. Knowing nothing about the limestone caves myself, Matsunaga Mitsuo, who appears in GAMA, spoke to me about the memories of these caves that had been handed down to him. Towards the end of shooting, he said, “I’m Matsunaga Mitsuo, of the generation born after the war,” in referring to himself. For some reason I winced upon hearing it. After I let it sink in, it resonated within my body as if they were pointing me to the direction in which this work should go. These memories were passed down to him, and we are allowed to observe one part of these inherited memories as they are left behind in the form of this film. I think that this process itself is what GAMA is about.

Through Matsunaga’s guidance, GAMA is the first work I have completed with all the new filmmakers who have joined my crew.

Oda Kaori

Filmmaker and artist, born in Osaka, 1987. Through image and sound, she explores human memories (voices)—where we come from, and where we are going. Her works include Aragane (2015, YIDFF 2015 New Asian Currents Special Mention), Toward a Common Tenderness (2017), and Cenote (2019, YIDFF 2019). She has won the inaugural Oshima Prize, and the best newcomer prize at the 71st Annual MEXT Fine Arts Awards. Since 2020 she has been filming a new feature-length work, Underground, at various locales across Japan. Her latest work, GAMA, was filmed in Okinawa in 2022 as part of the Underground project and was completed as a standalone mid-length film.