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24 September 2022: Tokyo Metropolis + Exchange Student Chua Swee-Lin


Tokyo Metropolis
Tsuchimoto Noriaki, 1962, 29 min
UK Premiere

Tokyo Metropolis is an early film by Tsuchimoto produced for television by the PR company Iwanami Productions. The series Discover Japan was an educational programme introducing the prefectures of the country from a social perspective, each filmed by a different director. The film focuses on the changing social fabric of Tokyo and the exodus of young people from rural areas to the metropolis. It is a portrait of Japan in the midst of industrialisation and rapid change.

Exchange Student Chua Swee-Lin
Tsuchimoto Noriaki, 1965, 51 min
UK Premiere

Exchange Student Chua Swee-Lin is considered as a precursor to independent documentary in Japan, and the first important film shot in the country about the burgeoning student movement. Chua Swee-Lin was a Malaysian exchange student who was being threatened with deportation over his protest against the separation and inde­pendence of Singapore. Tsuchimoto wished to make a plea for Chua Swee-­Lin’s case and thereby avoid his deportation and imprisonment. Chua Swee-Lin starts as a portrait of the young student but soon becomes a more encompassing and complex documentary about the political situation in Japan and Asia. As the film gathers support for Chua Swee­Lin and raises awareness to his cause, we see how his struggle joins that of other social movements.

“With most documentary films after this, like those before it, there first was a movement and then filming began in order to support and document that movement. With Chua Swee­-Lin, it was rather the film that organised the movement. There is no doubt that Chua Swee­-Lin is a happy exception. [...] It was like an expression of freedom, a freedom that was fresh and new. More than denying any cinematic form, it took what was cinematically impossible and gave birth to a new type of cinematic expression. [...] Chua Swee-Lin was an experiment, thankfully a successful one, an attempt at experiencing and showing the larger situation through the limited viewpoint of an individual. I think the experience of that film was carried on into the next generation’s filmmaking as well. That is what gave rise to Tsuchimoto’s Minamata: The Victims and Their World and The Shiranui Sea, as well as Ogawa’s Sanrizuka: Heta Village.” – Shinomiya Tetsuo

Screening as part of Tsuchimoto Noriaki's retrospective