Japanese Film Documentaries

Aaron Gerow gerowaaron
Thu Nov 3 08:51:40 EST 2005

Actually, one of the first documentaries on Japanese film was a work 
supervised by Gonda Yasunosuke titled Nihon eigashi (1941). The Film 
Center has a copy of part 1.

Depending on your definition of documentary, the studios did 
occasionally make "behind the scenes" shorts to show at the theaters. 
Toei, when it released its first animated feature, Hakujaden, included 
such scenes in the trailer for the film. You can find that on the DVD 
for that film.

One of the more famous documentaries on filmmaking in Japan is Shindo 
Kaneto's documentary on Mizoguchi Kenji: Aru eiga kantoku no shogai.

Chris Marker is one of the other directors who did a documentary on 
Kurosawa Akira: A.K. Toho sells it as part of their Kurosawa box 

In the last decade or two, many big films in Japan sponsor what's 
called a "making" version--basically a document of the film's 
production. Most are simply 20-30 fluff pieces that say little about 
the film, but some directors have hired young promising directors to 
make the making for their films. Itami had Suo Masayuki (Shall We 
Dance) do the making for Taxing Woman, Kitano had Shinozaki Makoto 
(Okaeri) do the making for Kikujiro, etc. Sometimes these get their own 
theatrical release.

Recently, there have been a number of films about film and filmmakers. 
There was a documentary on Kurosawa Kiyoshi called Aimai na mirai, 
Kurosawa Kiyoshi (on him filming bright future). Some foreign festivals 
have shown Pink Ribbon, a documentary on pink cinema. And celebrate 
Naruse's centennial, a film was made on that director entitled Naruse 
Mikio: Kioku no genba.

Aaron Gerow
KineJapan owner

Assistant Professor
Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
Yale University

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