Hara Kazuo: "Action Documentary"
Pioneering Japanese filmmaker screens two films at PFA Theater
As part of its 50th Anniversary celebration, the Center for Japanese Studies presents famed Japanese documentary filmmaking pioneer Hara Kazuo at a film screening and booksigning event on Saturday, May 2, 2009. A panel discussion featuring three of the country's top film scholars will follow on Sunday, May 3, 2009.
I couldn't forget the bloodthirsty look in Okuzaki's eyes when he asked me to film him killing his former company commander. Despite all the time I'd spent with him, I had never acknowledged the fact that Kenzo Okuzaki was a convicted criminal — even after hearing him repeat his resume of murder, violence, and pornography. I had secretly wished, someday, to film a crime documentary in real time. In fact, that's exactly what I was filming. If my goal was to capture Kenzo Okuzaki, the criminal, this film wouldn't work without the scene of Okuzaki's crime. In for a penny, in for a pound.
Few filmmakers have found themselves in quite such a quandary as Hara Kazuo during the filming of the award-winning The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On. But it wasn't by chance that this seminal documentarian stumbled into an extreme example of the journalist's dilemma.
Throughout the four decades of his career, Hara Kazuo has pursued the bizarre and disturbing margins of Japanese society, certain that central truths are to be found in fringe phenomena. His method of documentation, which he calls "action documentary," pursues the shocking effect of the action film, following the gesture and staying in the moment — not commenting in voiceover from a safe distance.
Hara's innovations have transformed documentary filmmaking, and contributed directly to the current ascendance of the documentary, both within the industry and among audiences, on a global scale. Hara has set a certain style of Japanese filmmaking and a flair for focusing on subjects that while they are set in Japan, they still translate internationally and resonate with both emerging artists and new generations of audiences. His best-known admirer is Michael Moore, who lists Hara Kazuo as one of his favorite directors.
The event includes a screening of two of Hara's best known films: The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On and Extreme Private Eros, at which director Hara Kazuo will be present for comments and questions. The screenings will be followed by a booksigning to launch the release of Hara Kazuo's new memoir/documentary handbook, Camera Obtrusa: Hara Kazuo's Action Documentaries. The following day, three of the top film studies scholars from around the country, Abe Mark Nornes (University of Michigan), Aaron Gerow (Yale University), and Akira Mizuta Lippit (University of Southern California) will conduct a panel discussion on Hara Kazuo's body of work and the future of Japanese film studies at universities worldwide.
Born in 1945, Hara Kazuo was influenced as a young man by the protest movements that took place throughout Japan and the world in the late 1960s and 70s. He founded Shisso Productions in 1971 with his wife, producer, and primary collaborator Sachiko Kobayashi. He has published five documentary films thus far, including the award-winning The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On, widely recognized as most important and influential documentary ever made in Japan, Goodbye CP, A Dedicated Life, Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, and Watashi no Mishima.
For a complete list of events, please see the Institute for East Asian Studies website.