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21 September 2019: JAEFF: Nation


Japanese Avant-garde & Experimental Film Festival: Nation examines national identity, cultural memory and perceptions of history through a programme of repertory cinema and contemporary experimental short film. Fierce satires and poetic meditations on existence from the post-war period are interwoven with expressive and intimate reflections on ‘being’ in present-day Japan.

Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, Kazuo Hara, 1974, 98 min
Dialogue, Yuka Sato, 2018, 17 min

A stunning and perverse glimpse into life after a relationship, Kazuo Hara pushes uncomfortable boundaries in ways no documentarian has ever dared.

Following Miyuki after the dissolution of their relationship, Hara decides that filming his lost love's new life in Okinawa is the best way to stay connected. Through candid vignettes with ill-synched audio, a voyeuristic, dreamlike portrait emerges of Miyuki at the hub of a burgeoning leftist community. Landing somewhere in the ether between one man’s destructive coping strategy, a record of fringe 1970s culture, and the thought-provoking nature of what remains after love ends, Extreme Private Eros is an introspective artistic enterprise and a riveting piece of documentary filmmaking. 

Extreme Private Eros is paired here with Yuka Sato’s Dialogue, where, emerging from a period of withdrawal, a social recluse or hikikomori relates her inner experiences against the backdrop of an illuminated, restless urban environment that never sleeps.

Fighting Elegy, Seijun Suzuki, 1966, 86 min, 15
How Can You Know Where to Go If You Do Not Know Where You Have Been, Mizuki Toriya, 2017, 6 min
Bright Beyond Bearing, Monika Uchiyama, 2017, 4 min
Chiyo, Chiemi Shimada, 2019, 12 min

Shooting with audacious confidence, Suzuki ensnares us in an inane satire – precisely the kind of madness this bizarre masterpiece seeks to destroy. High-schooler Kiroku is in love with the rigidly-Catholic daughter of his boarding family, but society and religion do not allow him to exercise his more-base desires. Overflowing with teenage angst, he finds relief in violent outbursts: discovering that with each one comes mixed results.

Displaying Suzuki’s trademark mockery, Fighting Elegy meets society’s continual moralistic failings head on, showing the objective absurdity civilization creates, yet at the same time allowing us a chance to laugh whilst considering the part we each play in this ongoing farce. Fighting Elegy is paired here with three short films that explore the past through personal stories narrated by female relatives of the filmmakers: Mizuki Toriya’s How Can You Know Where to Go If You Do Not Know Where You Have Been, Monika Uchiyama’s Bright Beyond Bearing and Chiemi Shimada’s Chiyo.

Part of the Japanese Avant-garde and Experimental Film Festival 2019