2001-08-07 | Towards the Kamei Fumio retrospective

Where did Song of Ina and Chobei the Rogue go?

For someone like me raised during the golden era of Tsuchimoto Noriaki and Ogawa Shinsuke, Kamei Fumio was but a name from the past. I had been unimpressed by Kamei’s films during that time, and as the media had slapped upon him the label of “anti-war filmmaker”, in actuality my image of the director as a rather suspicious character was quite strong. So when I received the suggestion of a Kamei Fumio retrospective from the director of the Tokyo office, Mr. Yano, I felt somewhat puzzled.

In Yamagata International Documentary Film Festivals to date, we’ve screened some of Kamei’s works in programs such as our Japanese documentary retrospective section and “Movie Wars: Now And Then”. Looking over such films as Fighting Soldiers (“Tatakau Heitai”), Kobayashi Issa, It’s Good to Live (“Ikite ite yokatta”), Record of Blood (“Ryuketsu no kiroku”), The World In Fear (“Sekai wa kyofu suru”), and Men Are All Brothers (“Ningen mina kyodai”), we realize that Japan had its share of great, humane directors too. The Kamei Fumio depicted in various literature was too great a man,much too great for someone like myself to get close to, and as a result he has not been given the attention he deserves. Directly before and after his death, a period when we had totally forgotten about Kamei’s existence, he returned suddenly to our attention with the film Lullabies of Birds, Insects and Fish (“Tori mushi sakana no komori uta”).

In Kansai, it was screened at the Sanpord Apple Theater (the forerunner of the Dai Nana Geijutsu Gekijo) in Juso. I went to see it, curious to see what kind of movie Kamei had made this time around, but in the end can remember feeling rather annoyed at having had to sit through the continual lecturing within the movie.

Tracing the life of one of Japan’s most representative documentary filmmakers, Kamei Fumio, for this film festival, I feel a certain sense of destiny, and also the conviction that if we are to do this properly, we must bring together and screen as many of his works as possible. This year Kusunoki Tokuo, a director with strong ties to Kamei died suddenly, and the Kindai Motion Picture Association’s Noto Setsuo also passed away. The human resources who can bring life to this history in their own words are gradually fading into the ether. It's rather late to be looking back at Kamei, but we’re striving to provide every possible research material available at this point in time, and to create a program that everyone can watch with interest. If this evolves into an opportunity to reevaluate Kamei and his work, it would be a great achievement.

Why did Kamei make so many PR films, during a period that I had assumed to be a long hiatus? Why would Kamei, a socialist, make films in the interests of capitalism? Why was it necessary for a filmmaker who had produced such superior documentaries to spend his time fraying his nerves at the whims of some interfering client? And so on, and so on... And while many questions such as these rise to the surface, we begin to realize the many facets of the man, not only an idealist but also possessing a pragmatic streak, as we edge closer to the long-neglected truth about this filmmaker.

In fields other than documentary, beginning with feature film and also including educational and PR films, we find a most interesting taste for musicals, eroticism, and setting aside difficult things in order to make enjoyable films to please an audience. Two great examples of this are Nakamura Masaya’s The Model and the Photographer (“Moderu to shashinka”) and Kamoi Yoko’s Underwear Makes the Woman (“Onna wa shitagi de tsukurareru”), both edited by Kamei, and we’d definitely like you to take the opportunity to watch these and recharge during the festival.

The rare video Kamei Fumio—Kamei on Kamei: A Record of Tomorrow’s Film Production Discussion Group (“Kamei Fumio—Jishin o kataru: Ashita no eiga seisaku o katariau kai no kiroku”) was filmed at a party held in 1983 in Kamei's honor that featured him as the guest speaker, and Ito Takeo as his interviewer. Kamei talks in detail about his own works. It seems that Kamei’s feature films have largely been ignored, but upon watching them one becomes aware of his fabulous achievements in none other than the golden age of cinema. Featuring spirited performances from a young Yamada Isuzu and Kishi Hatae, Kamei’s creative vitality flows from the screen. Looking at this body of work from a modern perspective, it could be said that his features were also a form of documentary, painting pictures of post-war Japan.

Regarding screenings, we are preparing new prints of People of Sunagawa (“Sunagawa no hitobito”), Towards a World without Arms (“Gunbi naki sekai ni") and more. We hope to unearth more of Kamei’s works in the days leading up to the festival.

Our guests will include Kamei’s trusted cameraman Kikuchi Shu; his son-in-law Abe Takashi of Japan Document Film Co.; Kamei devotee and film researcher Makino Mamoru; and discoverer of the mysterious Beijing (“Pekin”), University of Michigan associate professor Abé Mark Nornes. We hope to shed light on the life and work of Kamei Fumio from many different angles, in order to gain a more complete picture of this director who is most often known simply as an “anti-war filmmaker.”

This program is being compiled with the purpose of viewing Kamei from a variety of perspectives, but as it has not yet been completely finalized, so we will announce the full line-up in our next dispatch. For now, the films currently scheduled for screening are listed below. From October 4th to the 8th, you’ll be able to indulge yourself in the films of Kamei Fumio at the Solaris 3 cinema complex, recently opened in front of Yamagata station.


1) Post war documentary films
A Japanese Tragedy (“Nihon no higeki”)
Children of the base (“Kichi no kodomotachi”)
The People of Sunagawa (“Sunagawa no hitobito”)
Undying Barley (“Mugi shinazu”)
It’s Good to Live (“Ikite ite yokatta”)
The World in Fear (“Sekai wa kyofu suru”)
Fluttering Pigeons (“Hato wa habataku”)
Record of Blood (“Ryuuketsu no kiroku: Sunagawa”)
Living in a Rough Sea (“Araumi ni ikiru”)
Men Are All Brothers (“Ningen mina kyoudai”)
Towards a World without Arms (“Gunbi naki sekai ni”)
All Must Live : People, Insects and Birds (“Minna ikinakereba naranai”)
All Living Things Are Friends—Lullabies of Birds, Insects and Fish (“Tori mushi sakana no komori uta”), etc.

2) Feature films
Become a Mother, Become a Woman (“Haha nareba onna nareba”)
A Woman Goes to the Land (“Onna Hitori Daichi o iku”)

3) PR Films
Poem of Life (“Inochi no uta”)
Japanese Architecture (“Nihon no kenchiku”)
Living an Idea (“Aidia ni ikiru”)
Let’s Weave a Rainbow (“Niji o amimasho”), etc.

4) Pre-war Works
Hiking Song (“Haikingu no uta”)
Shape without Shape (“Sugata naki sugata”)
The Geology of Fuji (“Fuji no Chishitsu”)
Shanghai (“Shanhai”)
Beijing (“Pekin”)
Fighting Soldiers (“Tatakau heitai”)
Kobayashi Issa (“Shinano fudoki yori: Kobayashi Issa”), etc.

Underwear Makes the Woman (“Onna wa shitagi de tsukurareru”)
The Model and the Photographer (“Moderu to shashinka”)
Human Conceit (“Ningen yo ogoru nakare”)
Kamei Fumio—Kamei on Kamei: A Record of Tomorrow’s Film Production Discussion Group (“Kamei Fumio—Jishin o kataru: Ashita no eiga seisaku o katariau kai no kiroku”) (video)

Note : All English titles may be subject to change.


Not included in this selection are From the Shinano Trilogy: Song of Ina (“Shinano fudoki yori: Inabushi”) and Chobei the Rogue (“Buraikan Chobei”). We’d dearly like to screen these, but we’ve searched far and wide and exhausted every means at our disposal, and still cannot locate prints. Song of Ina was a tourism promotion film made for Nagano prefecture, so on the possibility that it is hiding somewhere within its borders, one of our staff journeyed there and searched as far as Ina City itself, but to no avail. We hoped that the Toyoko film Chobei the Rogue was safely tucked away in Toei’s vaults, but they told us that “If it exists, we want it too.” Readers, please look for these films! If you happen to come across one of them, please bring it to us in Yamagata before our screenings begin. I’ll personally take care of your accommodation and travel costs. This is your chance to see the festival for free!

(YASUI Yoshio, program coordinator of Kamei Fumio Retrospective)