Self-Documentary: Its Origins and Present State

Nada Hisashi

Nowadays, when people in Japan say “diary film,” they usually mean films made after Jonas Mekas’s Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972) was introduced there. But if the term actually implies the use of film as a form of diary, we should also add home movies, and we might just as well include any documentary that is characterized by a personal perspective, or any film that bears the function of an essay or a letter.

In fact, in spite of the term, there are few so-called “diary films” that are literally made according to the diary-like mechanism of looking back at a day at the end of that day (as a rare example we could name Suzuki Shiroyasu’s Fifteen Days (“Jugonichikan,” 1980), and, needless to say, even that is strictly speaking not the same as writing a piece of text.

That is why, even though “diary film” is currently an established expression in its own way, it is at times replaced with essay film, personal film, etc., and I sometimes also use the term I-film, because of the connection to the tradition of the I-novel in Japan, with which it shares a sense of disclosure and personalness. Besides, since most works these days are shot on video, calling them “something something film” in itself has become meaningless. The latest names are therefore private documentary and self-documentary (serufu dokyumentarii). In this essay I will bring these kinds of individual, personal documentary films together under the general heading “self-documentary.” To use a simple definition, in Japanese self-documentary basically refers to a work in which a visual artist films himself and records facts in his personal environment.1

If we first of all consider the origins from which Mekas created the self-documentary, we should name, along with the history of the New York school, the flood of news films during World War II, the trend of “compilations” after the war (which took a new look at moving images from the past from a historical perspective), and the approach to film by cultural anthropologists.

Here I mention a crucial point. If we talk in terms of a shift in aesthetic sense, the re-edited documentaries, which proliferated after the war and were underlain with the shock brought about by the acts of war during World War II, alerted people to the tremendous awakening power of images that reflect facts. This led to ethical static realism that loathes excessive staging, such as that of Richard Leacock and others admired by Mekas, and dynamic realism, which tries to directly shock its subjects and see people for what they really are during their reaction to this, such as that of Jean Rouch.

Under these influences, Mekas began to make his unique self-documentaries; personal but at the same time carrying the flavor of human history. Mekas is a refugee, but his originality lies in the point that he rises above the mentality of the oppressed and lets his eye function as an “observer of human history.” To borrow his own words, it is a point of view in which “Wilhelm Meister and the refugee become one,” and the appeal of Mekas’s eye lies in the intersection of the perspective from below, which looks at reality as it is, and the perspective from above, which looks at it transcendentally in the way of an anthropologist. As we can understand from the chronological table in the appendix, Mekas’s “discovery of the self-documentary” is believed to date back to the early sixties.

Around that same time Stan Brakhage was making “avant-garde home movies.” In Window Water Baby Moving (1959) for example, he and his wife film each other during childbirth. He made other works contemplating human life and death, extremely individual yet universal, and with a similar pure and innocent look, which I would even call “prebiblical.”

Let us now turn our attention to Japan. In Japan, the so-called Pathé-Baby camera using 9.5mm film and the 16mm camera were imported in 1923, the 8mm camera in 1932. From the late twenties till the early forties the amateur film movement was developed by people who were called small gauge film directors. This naturally included “home movies” as a genre, which had the following major characteristic. If we make a division between the ordinary (ke) and the extraordinary (hare), home movies basically filmed the time and space of hare.2 If we follow the four seasons for example, good illustrations are the depictions of cherry blossom viewing in spring, sea bathing in summer, the viewing of autumn leaves in autumn, etc. If we take these as the weft, then the warp is the birth of a child, the seven-five-three festival, entrance ceremonies, graduation ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, etc, which constitute the creases of one’s lifetime, and these were selected as the subject matter of home movies. In addition to this, adult entertainment also became movie material. As interest in modern sports grew in those days, tennis, baseball, mountain climbing, skiing, etc. became popular topics for filming, and plenty of travelogues were made as well, recording excursions to famous places in the countryside.

Entering the forties, the screening of cultural films (educational documentary films in accordance with national policy) had become compulsory under the Film Law, and demand for documentary films increased accordingly. In the midst of this, Kamei Fumio was especially famous, and has by now been apotheosized as a documentarist who continued to make excellent anti-war and anti-authoritarian films all through and after the war.

In the sixties, documentaries came to the fore of film history. Kawanaka Nobuhiro has pointed out the pioneering activities of independent documentarists from the latter half of the sixties, for example Noda Shinkichi, Kasu Sanpei, Higashi Yoichi, Tsuchimoto Noriaki, Ogawa Shinsuke, Nagano Chiaki, Mamiya Norio, Iwasa Hisaya, Nishie Takayuki, Haneda Sumiko, Hirano Katsumi, Kitamura Minao, Hoshi Kiichi, Kuroda Teruhiko, Yamatani Tetsuo, Nunokawa Tetsuro, Jonouchi Motoharu, Hara Kazuo, Suzuki Shiroyasu, Takamine Go, etc.3 With his Sanrizuka series for example, the famous Ogawa Shinsuke incessantly made antinational and militant films, but on the other hand changed to a style that revealed the depths of the Japanese spirit as he settled in a farm village and lived as a farmer. In his Magino Village: A Tale (“Sennen kizami no hidokei: Maginomura monogatari,” 1986), for example, he began to show extremely avant-garde characteristics, introducing collective directing and butoh. By way of his Minamata series Tsuchimoto Noriaki, for his part, radically accused companies for the conditions of pollution, and thus the Minamata problem became known around the world. These two anti-establishment, militant documentary filmmakers, Ogawa and Tsuchimoto, had a big impact on Japanese documentary film, and they inherited the morality of a line of documentarists starting with Kamei Fumio. In the sense that these documentary filmmakers took the “history written in bold” (challenging state and corporate crimes) as their subject matter, they undoubtedly fixed their eye on the “extraordinary.”

Among the directors who, on the other hand, made films about the “ordinary” with a methodology all their own, we have Imamura Shohei and Hara Kazuo. Imamura would in later years become a superb feature film director, but his A Man Vanishes (“Ningen johatsu,” 1967) at first sight is a “documentary film” about a man who has suddenly disappeared from his fiancee. As the man’s whereabouts are traced, various riddles involving him start to untangle. This film was inspired by cases of sudden disappearance by ordinary people, which at the time was a social phenomenon that regularly caused a sensation in the mass media, and takes up one case that had occurred among very common petits bourgeois. The film has a number of experimental characteristics. One is that it is a “self-reflective” film, in the sense that the people involved in the production of the film appear in the film to reflect on their work and discuss their future course of filming on screen. Another is that the fictional nature of the film as a whole is revealed in the end. The so-called relation between “fact and fiction,” that inevitable discussion when you talk about documentary film, is confronted openly and head-on. A Man Vanishes is avant-garde in the three respects of “dealing with the ordinary,” “self-reflection,” and “the fictionality of documentary film,” and for its time it can be called an outstanding film.

Taking a little jump in time, Hara Kazuo’s Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 (“Kyokushiteki erosu koiuta 1974,” 1974) depicts the love triangle relationship between one man (Hara) and two women, again with no direct connection to any social incident or politics. In this documentary a woman, who was Hara’s first wife, sets out on a journey to Okinawa, which at the time was in a very complex political situation, in search of her identity. She becomes involved with a black man and in the end gives birth to his child without any help. The scene of unassisted childbirth created quite a sensation, but when you pay attention to the camerawork while watching this controversial film, you can see evidence of directing here and there. In this sense, it is, in the same way as A Man Vanishes, an illustration of the problem of fact and fiction in documentary film. At the same time this film also shows overwhelming facticity in the filming of the unassisted delivery, and we can already notice the extraordinary sharp edge with which Hara forcefully cuts into his subjects, and which would become so characteristic of his work in later years.

I would now like to give an overview of Japanese amateur filmmakers with a focus on the lineage of self-documentary. If we consider the lineage of the Japanese documentary films mentioned above to be “pre-Mekas,” we could label everything after Impressions of a Sunset (“Nichibotsu no insho,” dir. Suzuki Shiroyasu, 1975), which was made after the Japanese release of Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania in 1973 and directly influenced by it, as “post-Mekas.” Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania consists of three parts. The first part depicts daily situations from 1950, the year Mekas migrated to the U.S., until 1953. It is about the interaction with his younger brother and various refugees living in Brooklyn. The second part is shot in Lithuania in 1971. Together with the touching narration, the scenes form an ode to Mekas’s elderly mother and his relatives living in his hometown after a thirty-five year gap. Part three starts with the suburb of Hamburg where Mekas spent one year in a forced labor camp during the war, and then moves to Vienna, showing cityscapes and meetings with fellow filmmakers like Peter Kubelka and Ken Jacobs. Especially touching is that no major incidents whatsoever occur in part two, but Mekas teaches us that there is poetry and emotion in what occurs in one’s immediate vicinity, such as the smile on the wrinkled face of his elderly mother when she sees him again after a long lapse, or the way he gulps down water from the house well saying “this is the most delicious water in the world.”

As I already mentioned, the tradition of home movies goes back to the small gauge film of the pre-war twenties, but in those days they stuck to recording the time and space of the hare (extraordinary), and nobody imagined that the time and space of the ke (ordinary) would ever become the object of film. Consequently, the “discovery of the self-documentary” in the work of Mekas, i.e. the fact that daily life itself becomes the film, had a very big impact on Japanese amateur filmmakers.

Suzuki Shiroyasu’s Impressions of a Sunset, which was inspired by Mekas, is to all appearances a home movie: the filmmaker has gotten his hands on a “CineKodak 16” (a pre-war 16mm camera) at a second hand camera shop, and in sheer delight he films his beloved wife, films his newborn baby, proudly takes his camera to work to film his colleagues, and then films the Tokyo sky at sunset. Still, this film is experimental in two respects. One is that the absolute protagonist of the film is the camera. In the first scene as much as the last, the subject of this film is the CineKodak 16. The narrated content is also almost exclusively about attachment to the camera and film theory. Though it looks like a home movie, it is, in fact, a film for the sake of the camera, a film for the sake of film. Another thing is that it has elements of a structural film. Because countless holes are punched in the film from beginning to end, a pattern of white circles is constantly dancing in the image. With this Suzuki seems to call out to the audience: “Hey, this is a piece of film,” thus creating a strong alienation effect. Structural film refers to a film in which its structural elements themselves are the theme of the film. So, also taking into account that the protagonist of the film is the camera, we can call Impressions of a Sunset a self-documentary with the underlying characteristics of a structural film.

This film has further complex elements. By continuously sending out the message that “this is a film,” as mentioned above, the thesis is foregrounded that “film turns the time of the past into the present,” while the antithesis to that is also true, which produces the new synthesis that “what is now reflected on film has already become the past.” So, the film scenes that we are watching in the present already belong to a distant past, in which that present no longer exists. That we are unable to stop the flow of time gives the viewers a strong sense of mortality. This is a very critical point of view, regardless of whether the filmmaker did it on purpose or not, but to me, also because of the saddening effect of the harmonica music, the smoke from the bathhouse chimney in the film looks like the smoke of a crematory. And the close up of the sleeping baby’s face in one of the final scenes looks exactly like that of a dead body. From this critical viewpoint, the “blissful everyday acts” of a camera buff buying his favorite camera and taking shots of his beloved family and friends, are turned 180 degrees into a film that poignantly makes us feel the loneliness of our sense of mortality. In this way, Suzuki Shiroyasu’s Impressions of a Sunset became a milestone for self-documentary in Japan, and in fact the entire development of self-documentary up to the present goes back to this film.

This means that when this film is screened in film schools, etc. as a masterpiece of self-documentary, then young visual artists learning of the existence of the self-documentary format by looking at this film, will, according to the “principle of competition” start making films that emphasize things that are not in this film, as an antithesis to it, concretely, the type of films that revolt against the kind of petit bourgeois happiness that apparently surrounds this film. In short, whereas the pre-war amateurs turned the time and space of the hare into film, and people like Mekas and Suzuki Shiroyasu filmed the ke, the “post-Suzuki” generation captures the time and space of the taboo.

A pioneering work in this respect was Ishii Hideto’s Home, Return To (“Ie, kaiki,” 1984). At the beginning of this film we see a hospital corridor and the silhouette of the director’s deceased grandfather in double exposure, and by means of narration we are informed that the grandfather defecated in this corridor before dying. Then the director points the camera at his live-in demented grandmother. His mother takes off all of grandmother’s clothes, puts her in the bath, and carefully washes her body, which is wrinkled and sagging like the skin of an elephant. The grandmother reacts to everything with: “I’d like to go home.”

I have a personal anecdote about this film. When I screened it in class at a certain film school, the three women among the fifteen or so students who had gathered left their seat during the film and disappeared from the classroom. Probably, for the young female students it was unbearable to keep looking at the vivid image of the old woman’s naked body, as it made them think of how they themselves would look in the future.

The existence of an old, demented woman, who can’t even get into the bath by herself anymore, is a blind spot in our daily lives. We all turn away from it while it is right there before our very eyes. Up till this film, capturing and visualizing such an elderly person so directly had been avoided as taboo. Surely, no film has been more reactive to the petit bourgeois happiness in Impressions of a Sunset than Home, Return To.

The film contains a staged scene, in which the mother sucks the grandmother’s wrinkled, sagging breast. When the mother does so, the grandmother starts to caress her daughter’s head. This scene was staged up to the point that the mother was made to suck the breast, but the old woman caressing her daughter’s head went beyond staging. For the demented grandmother it was an act that came out very naturally. Artists often say that in order to create a masterpiece they “need god’s help” or some “divine intervention,” but this is an emotional scene, which surely came about without the filmmaker’s intent. I’ve heard that veteran visual artist Kanai Katsu, who was Ishii Hideto’s tutor, raved about it.

I believe that Home, Return To played a decisive role in directing self-documentary towards the exposing of taboos that you wouldn’t want to show with an ordinary sensibility. One can see a number of films with a similar tendency before this one appeared, but Home, Return To had overpowering influence. We could name, for example, the much discussed MaMa (dir. Eguchi Yukiko, 1986) as a film following this direction.

The director was born in an ethnic Korean environment (both her father and her mother’s father are of Korean descent). She obviously suffers from mysophobia and a persecution complex. At the source of this lies a conflict with her mother, who resented her partner (they were not officially married) and left the house when Eguchi was still a child. Going from one bar job to the next, the mother had a child by one of her customers (a younger brother to the director). The mother also hated her own mother (the director’s grandmother), who, after her husband’s death, indulged in alcohol and men, and eventually left her family to disappear with some lover. In the first half of the film, memories are told alternately through narration by the director and the director’s mother (not the mother’s real voice), and the last part of the film consists of an interview by the director with her actual mother.

This film discloses the neurosis of the director, as well as her Korean descent. The narration, be it suggestively, also leads us to believe that the director’s mother sold her body during her days as a geisha. (Young people and foreigners may need explanation concerning ethnic Koreans in Japan—who are often referred to as “zainichi” in Japanese—so I supplement it here. At present there is hardly any visible discrimination against resident Koreans, but during and after the war they were clearly the object of discrimination. In Japan, so-called burakumin (outcasts) and ethnic Koreans have been discriminated classes for a long time, and even now burakumin villages and Korean villages remain in some areas. Descending from those classes used to be an obstacle for marriage, etc.) With MaMa, Eguchi confesses that she has zainichi blood, and that she is neurotic, information which is normally kept hidden. In these points the film “exposes taboos,” and has that typical characteristic of “confession of unhappiness,” which the self-documentary shares with the I-novel.

Kawase Naomi won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival for Suzaku (“Moe no suzaku,” 1996), which instantly put her in the limelight as female film director. Her debut film Embracing (“Ni tsutsumarete,” 1992) had also been a self-documentary. In this film the director, who was raised by her grandmother after her parents divorced, looks for the father she never knew and confronts him. This again is a film of “confession of unhappiness,” and at the same time it is a film about “searching for one’s father.”

Otsuki Natsuko’s Goodbye Movie (“Sayonara eiga,” 1995, part video) was another film that stirred commotion for similar reasons. The content is a follows. Otsuki is a student at the Department of Moving Images of some university. Although she’s living with someone, she starts having sex with another guy who approaches her in the street. While she carries on with this two-timing love affair, her mother is hospitalized with terminal cancer. Although her father leaves messages about her mother’s critical condition on Otsuki’s answering machine, she does not go back to her hometown. When she receives a call that her mother has died, she finally returns home, and caresses her mother’s dead face.

All through the film Otsuki keeps talking, as if to herself, and almost everything she says is replete with a sense of mortality (“it’s sad that all things disappear in the end,” etc.). She also says that “what is not filmed is real, the rest is all a lie,” so it remains a mystery whether the man-woman relationships are true or not, and thus this film as well raises the question of fictionality in documentaries. Contrary to the usual self-documentary as exposé, Otsuki was unable to directly film her mother during her illness and hospitalization, so her behavior of indulging in a two-timing love affair that is not going anywhere makes us feel reality all the more, and this film is unique for the way it shows the limits of expression and the powerlessness of the very act of shooting a film when driven into a corner.

One self-documentary of this kind that was highly acclaimed in recent years is Home (dir. Kobayashi Takahiro, 2001, video). The director returns to his hometown with a video camera, and confronts his elder brother who has been a social recluse for seven years, his mother suffering from depression, and his grandmother whose health is undermined by cancer. The father gave up trying to get the family back on track, and has moved out. When Kobayashi wants to cure his elder brother out of his isolation, the brother gets violent, but the director’s strenuous efforts and discussions eventually result in the brother leaving the house with the promise of making a recovery.

This film has the stormy development of a suspense drama, as all sorts of tough situations unfold before us at a breathtaking pace. But since there is a continuation of scenes that seem “too good to be true” (for example, the camerawork when Kobyashi is kicked out by his brother, or the scene in which he learns that his depressed mother has disappeared [making him suspect suicide], searches around the neighborhood and, almost in one shot, finds her standing by herself), I was led to believe that this was a carefully plotted fake documentary. However, when I asked the director about this in person, he said it was all true. Through this film I learned that it is impossible to objectively distinguish where fact ends and fiction begins with this kind of self-documentary. Home not only received awards at various film festivals, it was also released in mini theatres and broadcasted on television. In its kind it is a masterpiece, and one of the most discussed films in recent years.

The self-documentaries by the younger generation after Suzuki Shiroyasu may thus have the points of exposing taboos and confessing unhappiness in common, but on the other hand we have the oeuvre of Okawato Yosuke, which is called “the far north of personal film,” as he points his camera at the extremes of the ordinary (ke). Okawato is a very prolific artist, but all of his films share more or less the same style. First of all, there is no story-like quality to them. The characters just “sleep” or “hang around” or “eat.” When you look at his best known work Dream Master (“Yume shujin,” 1987), you only see matter-of-fact shots of his sleeping father or joking friends, and it is hard to find any structural principles in it. Still, Okawato uses two techniques to transform this “everyday life in which nothing happens” into a kind of “sacred movie.” One is his way of using music. For example, when he uses a solemn mass song over an image of the dinner table, this daily ordinary scene takes on the look of a mystical world, as if colored by the grace of god. The other technique is his camerawork. Especially his natural talent for light exposure is amazing. For example, when Okawato shoots his friend sitting idly in a room, he forms a big ball of light over that friend’s chest by means of a momentary exposure operation. In this way it becomes a device through which the viewers notice that the utterly undramatic quotidian moment is a heavenly time never to return.

The visual artist Kota Isao has called Okawato’s works “movies on the borderline.”4 This is because he films the virtually unchanging everyday life to such a point that taking things further would make it impossible to still constitute a “film.” In Okawato’s aesthetics, life is a precious time without second chances for single moments. Together with this “aesthetics without retakes” lies the “view of humanity based on the concept of original enlightenment” in Japanese Mahayana Buddhism, which states that man has a godlike quality by simply living, and does not have to do any special training or effort. Having this extreme style, there are pros and cons to Okawato’s films, but regardless of how much he himself is deliberate about making them, from a critical point of view I believe that he is a very important artist with an extremely deep aesthetic awareness and an ability to capture ideas.

So far I have discussed the background of Jonas Mekas’s “discovery of the self-documentary,” the making of home movies by pre-war small gauge film directors in Japan, the activities of independent documentarists in post-war Japan, and the characteristics of self-documentary after Mekas and Suzuki Shiroyasu. In closing I would like to give some consideration to the merits and the problems of personal documentaries nowadays.

The theme of confession of unhappiness has the possible effect of conquering neurosis and other woes by facing up to the facts, like, for example, the Morita therapy in psychiatry. Artists with mental problems sublimate their illness by turning it into film, and thus accomplish growth as human beings. And because this mechanism exists, we may consequently assume that the self-documentary as exposé will not disappear any time soon. If you think about it, everybody possesses a certain amount of madness, and we all have mental wounds we would rather not touch. Which means that every human being has at least one great self-documentary in him.

Of course, this tendency towards confessions of unhappiness borders on “parading one’s bad points.” Especially since the nineties, when this kind of self-documentary came to be awarded one grand prize after another at the Pia Film Festival (PFF), Image Forum Festival (IFF) and other events, young filmmakers have been vying to make films in this domain, and we could see how some tend to overdo it, deliberately looking for some unhappiness around them because they are aiming for an award. Therefore we can’t deny that self-documentaries with a taste for disclosure are also being ridiculed as the “boasting of unhappiness.”

Another big point of contention with self-documentary is the issue of fact and fiction in moving images, which I have pointed out a number of times in this essay. In fact, it is the fate of documentary films that viewers are unable to judge where fact ends and fiction begins. Only the maker knows the truth about that. Aside from films that make that coating of truth and falsehood the theme of the film, like Yamazaki Mikio’s major work A Port in Vain (“Kyoko,” 1996), or films which are clearly known to be fake documentaries, we have to say that, when it concerns personal documentaries that take issue with how much you can penetrate an individual’s unhappiness and adversity with a camera and grasp the facts of life, there are ethical problems with staging things without careful consideration just to make the film more interesting. Still, though I personally do not endorse this, if we think about how writers of I-novels often switched between facts and fiction to create their work, in theory the idea that the veracity of a film is not questioned as long as it is expressed in an interesting way, holds up as well.

Finally, there is the problem that most self-documentaries stick too much to the “principle of subject matter.” This is closely connected to the issue of fact and fiction in documentary films, but the more you try to present facts, the more you lean towards the principle of subject matter, and when you want to carry out formal experiments in your work, it inevitably becomes staged and the facticity is diluted. If you say, “So what, it’s fine if self-documentaries stick to the principle of subject matter,” then so be it, but could we not ask for something more than that?

I think that, probably, among all the amateur films in the world, Japan is the only place where the field of self-documentary has developed in such a unique way. Underlying this is the traditional susceptibility of the Japanese, who prefer the personal petite histoire over the grand tale. We can see a pattern here: the audience that used to loved the disclosure of privacy and the confessions of unhappiness in the I-novel, now satisfies that curiosity with self-documentaries. This field is already established as a major genre within Japanese amateur films, and we will most likely continue to discover descendants of Shiga Naoya, Dazai Osamu or Kasai Zenzo holding a camera.

—Translated by Luk Van Haute



1. Throughout his essay, the author uses the term “self-documentary” (serufu dokyumentarii). Self-documentary is a term of Japanese origin, and a relatively new way to refer to films and videos that, in English, might also be called “personal documentary.”—Ed.

2. In traditional Japanese community life, a hare day was a special holiday for public ritual, open to all community members; ke referred to the daily mundane working routine.—Trans.

3. Kawanaka Nobuhiro, “Forms of Japanese Documentary Film: Self-documentary Today (part 5),” Mail Magazine neoneo No. 10 (April 1, 2004).

4. Kota Isao, “Movies on the Borderline,” Muen Tsushin No. 12 (November 11, 1992), p. 45.

* All titles in this article were shot on film unless “video” is specified clearly in the brackets following the title.

Nada Hisashi

Film researcher. After graduation from the School of Letters I at Waseda University, he completed an M.A. course at Waseda’s Graduate School. Areas of specialization are avant-garde film, private films, small gauge film, etc. Presently part time instructor at Waseda University and Tokyo Polytechnic University.


Chronological Table of the Prehistory of Self-documentary

1895_ Series of home movies by Lumière (Baby’s Dinner, Baignade en mer, etc.)

1919 Invention of optical sound track

1929 Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, Russia)

1935 Domestic Cine Sakura (16mm) on sale in Japan

1939 Promulgation of Film Law. Decision to compulsorily screen cultural films (Japan)

1940 Imamura Taihei predicts diary film

1946 Start of commercial TV broadcasting in America

1948 The Neurenberg Trials (U.S. military government production)

1952 Release of research films by anthropologists Gregory Bateson and M. Mitchell (U.S.)

1953 O Dreamland (Lindsay Anderson, U.K.)

1955 Night and Fog (Alain Resnais, France)

1958 Letter from Siberia (Chris Marker, France)

1959 Window Water Baby Moving (Stan Brakhage, U.S.)
Pull My Daisy (Alfred Leslie, Robert Frank, U.S.)

1960 Richard Leacock’s group develops sync-sound portable 16mm camera and recorder and makes films for TV (Primary, Yanki No!).

1961 Chronicle of a Summer (Jean Rouch et al, for TV)

1962 Guns of the Trees (Jonas Mekas, USA)

1963 Sleep (Andy Warhol, U.S.)

1967 Canadian National Film Board starts “Challenge for Change” activities. It tries to produce films with citizen participation.
A Man Vanishes (“Ningen johatsu,” Imamura Shohei, Japan)

1968 Diaries, Notebooks and Sketches (Jonas Mekas, USA)
Summer, Happenings, USA (Iimura Takahiko, Japan)

1970 Going Down into Shinjuku Station
(“Chika ni oriru Shinjuku suteshon,” Jonouchi Motoharu, Japan)

1972 Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (Jonas Mekas, U.S.)

Comment: The films and various items mentioned in this chronological table are mainly selected on the premise that the “conscious diary film” came into being around 1961–62, when Mekas became aware of the diary film format while taking a fresh look at the pile of films he had shot until then as practice to make “real films” in the future. Exactly around that time Brakhage was making ”avant-garde home movies,” mobile sync shooting by means of Éclair camera and Nagra sound recorder was developed through the demand for TV broadcasts, and Direct Cinema, making full use of this, appeared on the scene. It was, so to speak, a time when “hot documentaries” were produced.

(Nada Hisashi)