Surviving the Tsunami - My Atomic Aunt

Film director Kyoko Miyake remembered Namie, a fishing village ravaged by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, as her childhood paradise. Revisiting her family’s hometown after 10 years abroad, Miayke’s multilayered documentary examines the disaster’s profound personal, social and environmental impact. While Namie’s younger generations have permanently relocated elsewhere, Miyake’s Aunt Kuniko, like other older residents, has clung to dreams of eventually returning to her home. Over the course of a year, Miyake follows this warm, indomitable businesswoman as she recalls happy family memories and strives to adapt to life outside the contamination zone. In the process, Kuniko starts questioning her unconditional trust in Fukushima’s plant operators and pro-nuclear past in a community that once hoped to house a nuclear power station. A timely reminder of Fukushima’s continuing meltdown, this insightful, often funny film offers fresh perspectives on Japanese national identity and today’s most pressing global concerns around nuclear energy.
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Under Snow

In the Echigo region of northwestern Japan, where heavy snow blankets entire landscapes and villages for more than half the year, a distinctive way of life has evolved. Time follows a different, slower rhythm, and everyday routines, along with religious rituals, wedding traditions, festivals, foods, songs, and games, are adapted to Echigo’s austere living conditions and natural beauty. Ulrike Ottinger’s latest film leads us into this mythical country, turning her lens on daily and communal life under the snowy mountains. Narrated in English by American literary and media theorist Lawrence A. Rickels, this stunning documentary sequences merge with the tale of students Takeo and Marko, played by Kabuki performers. Their journey through the past and repeated encounters with the present find them wondrously transformed with help from a beautiful vixen fox. Under Snow is clear evidence that Ottinger, whose career spans more than four decades, remains one of world cinema’s most original artists.
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Water Children

In this acclaimed, hauntingly beautiful film, director Aliona van der Horst follows the unconventional Japanese-Dutch pianist Tomoko Mukaiyama as she explores the miracle of fertility and the cycle of life—sometimes joyful, sometimes tragic. When Mukaiyama recognized that her childbearing years were ending, she created a multimedia art project on the subject in a village in Japan, constructing what she calls a cathedral, out of 12,000 white silk dresses. While Mukaiyama’s own mesmerizing music provides a haunting backdrop to the film, her installation elicits confessions from its normally reticent Japanese visitors, many of whom have never seen art before—and in moving scenes they open up about previously taboo subjects. Mukaiyama’s courageous approach to a subject that remains unspoken in many cultures is explored with an elegance and sophistication that deepens our understanding of the relationship between body and mind.
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Poetry of Resilience

Academy® Award nominated director Katja Esson’s (FERRY TALES, LATCHING ON) exquisitely made film explores survival, strength and the power of the human heart, body and soul—as expressed through poetry. She highlights six different poets, who individually survived Hiroshima, the Holocaust, China’s Cultural Revolution, the Kurdish Genocide in Iraq, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Iranian Revolution. By summoning the creative voice of poetry to tell stories of survival and witness, each reclaims humanity and dignity in the wake of some of history’s most dehumanizing circumstances. POETRY OF RESILIENCE gives us an intimate look into the language of the soul and brings us closer to understanding the insanity of war and how art will flourish, in spite of any obstacle.This film is recommended for courses in poetry studies, literature, peace and conflict studies and genocide studies.
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The Fourth Dimension

Acclaimed filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha ventures into the digital realm with her stunning new feature, THE FOURTH DIMENSION, an incisive and insightful examination of Japan through its art, culture, and social rituals. As is the case with Trinh's previous films, her new film is a multi-layered work addressing issues around its central theme: the experience of time, the impossibility of truly "seeing," and the impact of video on image-making. THE FOURTH DIMENSION is an elegant meditation on time, travel, and ceremony in the form of a journey. In her first foray into digital video, Minh-ha deconstructs the role of ritual in mediating between the past and the present. She explains, "Shown in their widespread functions and manifestations, including more evident loci such as festivals, religious rite and theatrical performance, 'rituals' involve not only the regularity in the structure of everyday life, but also the dynamic agents in the world of meaning." With its lush imagery, Minh-ha's Japan is viewed through mobile frames, with doors and windows sliding shut, revealing new vistas as it blocks out the old light. “Trinh T. Minh-ha’s newest essayistic work and her first videotape, cuts an intricate key for unlocking this elusive culture. Her tack finds great visual pleasure in the everyday, composing and decomposing the social landscape, while constructing a poetic grid of temporalities, symbolic meaning, and ritual. In THE FOURTH DIMENSION, Trinh’s lyrical narration guides us through ‘Japan’s likeness,’ the perfected framing of the sacramental familiar.” - Steve Seid
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Gaea Girls

"This fascinating film follows the physically grueling and mentally exhausting training regimen of several young wanna-be GAEA GIRLS, a group of Japanese women wrestlers. The idea of them may seem like a total oxymoron in a country where women are usually regarded as docile and subservient. However, in training and in the arena, the female wrestlers depicted in this film are just as violent as any member of the World Wrestling Federation, and the blood that’s drawn is very real indeed. One recruit, Takeuchi, endures ritual humiliation not seen on screen since the boot camp sequences of FULL METAL JACKET. In DIVORCE IRANIAN STYLE, Kim Longinotto cinematically explored the previously unexplored world of the Tehran divorce courts. Working with co-director Jano Williams, Longinotto has been given access to shoot an insider’s verité account of this closely guarded universe." - Chicago Film Festival
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The Displaced View

THE DISPLACED VIEW is a film that movingly depicts the odyssey of an American-born Japanese granddaughter in search of her identity through her grandmother who is the last of the family born in Japan. The sense of isolation the granddaughter feels as a Japanese woman who cannot speak Japanese is skillfully evoked in a montage of images gleaned from old photographs, movies, animated puppets, and various experimental film techniques. Onodera focuses almost exclusively on Japanese women as preservers of the old traditions in a country where they have no meaning. By revealing the inconsistency of memory and the cultural erosion of assimilation, the fragile identity of the Japanese in North America is eloquently expressed, and the sense of alienation and displacement heightens as the old voices try to remember the past. The narrative shifts between English and Japanese, as well as between generations. Japanese subtitles are artfully displayed throughout. The focus on women makes this film ideal for women’s studies, but the historical overview would be important in other disciplines such as history and sociology. Highly recommended for academic libraries. -Roxanna Herrick, SUNY at Stony Brook Library
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Shinjuku Boys

From the makers of DREAM GIRLS, SHINJUKU BOYS introduces three onnabes who work as hosts at the New Marilyn Club in Tokyo. Onnabes are women who live as men and have girlfriends, although they don't usually identify as lesbians. As the film follows them at home and on the job, all three talk frankly to the camera about their gender-bending lives, revealing their views about women, sex, transvestitism and lesbianism. Alternating with these illuminating interviews are fabulous sequences shot inside the Club, patronized almost exclusively by heterosexual women who have become disappointed with real men. This is a remarkable documentary about the complexity of female sexuality in Japan today.
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Dream Girls

This fascinating documentary, produced for the BBC, opens a door into the spectacular world of the Takarazuka Revue, a highly successful musical theater company in Japan. Each year, thousands of girls apply to enter the male-run Takarazuka Music School. The few who are accepted endure years of a highly disciplined and reclusive existence before they can join the Revue, choosing male or female roles. DREAM GIRLS offers a compelling insight into gender and sexual identity and the contradictions experienced by Japanese women today.
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Halving the Bones

Skeletons in the closet? HALVING THE BONES delivers a surprising twist to this tale. This cleverly-constructed film tells the story of Ruth, a half-Japanese filmmaker living in New York, who has inherited a can of bones that she keeps on a shelf in her closet. The bones are half of the remains of her dead Japanese grandmother, which she is supposed to deliver to her estranged mother. A narrative and visual web of family stories, home movies and documentary footage, HALVING THE BONES provides a spirited exploration of the meaning of family, history and memory, cultural identity and what it means to have been named after Babe Ruth!
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Juxta

This beautiful drama observes the psychological effects of racism on two children of Japanese women and American servicemen. Thirty-one year old Kate, the daughter of a Japanese/white mixed marriage visits her childhood friend, Ted, a Japanese-Black American. Together they confront the memory of her mother’s tragic story in this telling, emotionally nuanced journey into the complexity of US racism.
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The Good Wife of Tokyo

“Forget those demure ladies with fragrant fans and meet the new breed of Japanese women!” - Amanda Casson, London Film Festival. Kazuko Hohki goes back to Tokyo with her band, the ‘Frank Chickens’, after living in England for 15 years. This wry and delightful film records her re-experiencing of Japan after a long absence, examining traditional attitudes to women and those of Kazuko’s friends who are trying to live differently. “This is a remarkable film which will appeal to general audiences as well as educators teaching about women, the family and/or religion in contemporary Japan. It deserves to be widely shown.” — Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership Center for Educational Media.
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Eat the Kimono

EAT THE KIMONO is a brilliant documentary about Hanayagi Genshu, a Japanese feminist and avant-garde dancer and performer, who has spent her life defying her conservative culture’s contempt for independence and unconventionality. She denounced Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal, and dismissed death threats made against her by right-wing groups. “You mustn’t be eaten by the kimono,” says Genshu, making reference to the traditional Japanese dress designed to restrict movement for women, “You must eat the kimono, and gobble it up.” From the directors of THE GOOD WIFE OF TOKYO and HIDDEN FACES.
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Ripples of Change

Powerful political analysis is combined with a passionate personal story in this exceptional documentary about the Japanese women’s liberation movement in the 1970’s and its influence on contemporary Japanese society. Director Nanako Kurihara left her homeland in the 1980’s, frustrated by the lack of interesting roles for women in Japan. In New York, she met a Japanese woman who had been involved in the women’s liberation movement in Japan in the 1970’s. Kurihara returned to Japan, bringing together interviews with veterans of the movement, fascinating archival footage and her personal impressions to produce a film which explores the meaning of the liberation movement, the factors that motivated it and the effect it has had on people’s attitudes. RIPPLES OF CHANGE is an excellent resource for the study of global feminism, women’s roles and Japanese society.
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