Anthology Film Archives


June 7 – June 18

Long overdue, this comprehensive retrospective devoted to the work of a giant of documentary cinema, Shinsuke Ogawa (1936-92), will bring more than a dozen of his films to North America for the first time in many years. While his films did circulate internationally when they were first released, Ogawa has been unaccountably neglected in the Western world in the decades since. With this series we hope to re-focus attention on his extraordinary, incisive, and deeply committed body of work.

Fearlessly devoted to radical politics and to collective production, Ogawa began his career making films about the student movement, before turning his cameras on the increasingly violent conflict between the authorities and farmers who were being threatened with eviction to make way for the construction of the proposed Narita International Airport. Rejecting the notion that a documentary filmmaker must remain a detached observer of the events he or she records, Ogawa and his collaborators (who together formed Ogawa Productions, or ‘Ogawa Pro’) threw themselves into the (protracted) struggle, producing seven films over the course of almost a decade (including masterpieces such as PEASANTS OF THE SECOND FORTRESS and HETA VILLAGE).

After the waning of the Sanrizuka protests, Ogawa and his colleagues soon came to devote themselves to an equally ambitious project, relocating to Yamagata Prefecture and beginning a series of films focusing on the rural village of Magino. Living and working with the farmers they filmed, the collective created an astonishing, unique portrait of a culture and a way of life that are rarely depicted.

Remarkable both for his unforgettable films and for his radical approach to documentary cinema, Ogawa has been hugely influential within Japan and Asia, and deserves to be far more widely known in the U.S. As extraordinary as his individual films are, Ogawa's is a body of work whose impact is even greater when experienced as a whole - seeing the films together and in order reveals the fascinating process by which the Ogawa Pro collective's conception of documentary cinema developed, as a result of their thoughtful debates as well as the transformations taking place in postwar Japanese society and politics. This retrospective provides a rare and richly rewarding opportunity to chart the course of this development.

Presented with invaluable support from The Japan Foundation.

Organized in collaboration with Go Hirasawa (Meiji-Gakuin University) and Markus Nornes (University of Michigan), author of the book FOREST OF PRESSURE: OGAWA SHINSUKE AND POSTWAR JAPANESE DOCUMENTARY. Presented with the invaluable assistance of the Athénée Français Cultural Center, Tokyo, the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, and Icarus Films (NY).

Very special thanks to Kanako Shirasaki, Yukihiro Ohira, and Grant Tompkins (Japan Foundation); Yuichiro Izumi (Athenee Francais); Masaharu Oki, Kazuyuki Yano, Asako Fujioka & Haruka Hama (Yamagata); Jonathan Miller, Livia Bloom & Colin Beckett (Icarus Films); and Frederick Veith.

All descriptions are by Markus Nornes. Unless otherwise noted, all films are in Japanese with English subtitles.

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