Close Up

20 February 2020: Yama – Attack to Attack


Yama – Attack to Attack
Mitsuo Sato & Kyoichi Yamaoka, 1985, 110 min
Japanese with English subtitles

Filmed at the height of Japan’s economic boom of the 1980s, Yama - Attack to Attack is an unflinching record of the struggles of unionised day-labourers in the San’ya district of Tokyo. From the start its original director Mitsuo Sato makes clear that this documentary is not an appeal for pity. It is instead a film for the workers, meant to function as a weapon in their struggle by exposing the criminal role of the yakuza gangsters in restructuring the job market. Sato paid for this stance with his life, murdered by a member of the yakuza during filming. A collective of directors finished the film, led by Kyoichi Yamoka, who was also murdered upon its completion. These attempts to halt the film’s production reflect the explosive nature of its revelations, shedding light on collaborations between the yakuza, Japanese corporations and the police, accusing those responsible of brutal, systematic exploitation of the labour class amidst the construction surge of the time. Yama - Attack to Attack is a vital document that is relevant to this day, exploring the intersection of labour rights, corruption, police violence and class and racial discrimination, highlighting labour and power relations as operating under capitalism. (Adapted from Dorothee Wenner’s synopsis for Berlinale 2018)

Please note that the film opens with the aftermath of the fatal stabbing of Mitsuo Sato which some viewers may find distressing.

Special thanks to Ken Komi and Urae Yumiko. Programmed by The Camera: Nous.