question regarding early archives and Japanese film

Quentin Turnour Quentin.Turnour at
Tue Feb 9 03:56:39 EST 2010

I was directed to Junko Ogihara's piece at the time and it was very 
helpful. Except that I wanted to know more, especially after hearing some 
fascinating background to how the Pacific Film Archive at Berkeley 
acquired its many of its post-war Japanese prints as the Californian 
offices of the Japanese studios began to shut in the 1970s. 

>>From what I have heard of the NFC story, the seed of its collection were 
films confiscated in Japan in the post-war period and taken back to the 
LoC, not from US local sources; but that is anacdotal information and 
perhaps misunderstood from a conversation with one of its curators. 

Roger, to answer your question: very small, a few thousand concentrated 
around the Northern Australian Pearl Fishing industry centres of Broome 
and the Torres Strait Islands. One of the sub-plots of the Treaty of 
Versailles negotiations in 1919 was Australia's then very Prime Minister 
Billy Hughes protecting the White Australia Policy and feuding with 
Woodrow Wilson over pressure from the Japanese (then allies, of course) to 
allow Japanese emigration to the South Pacific. Shamefully, all 
Japanese-Australians (including some born in Australia) were interned and 
then forcibly repatriated back to Japan in around 1946. A few of these 
families later returned in the 60s and there are still some curious 
community links which surface from time to time, especially through 
intermarriage with indigenous Australians. For example, Broome happens to 
have a long-standing sister town relationship with Taiji south of Osaka 
and its very mutlit-cultural community was recently very badly divided 
over the blow-back from THE COVE and the current Antarctic Ocean whaling 

Has any research been done on Latin-American Japanese diasporic screen 
culture? In Spanish? Also of interest might be Japanese homeland cinema 
films about the disapora. I have heard a little of the pre-WW2 campaigns 
encouraging emigration to South America and potentially even to British 
colonial SE Asia and the Pacific; Wasn't there a 1930s national policy 
promoting emigration to the Southern Hemisphere, with a title that 
translates as something like "Under the Southern Cross"?

As a slight aside to all this: I remember being slack-jawed when I first 
saw the NFC's print of the 1912 Nobu Shirase Antarctic Expedition Film and 
its scenes of the arrival home of the expedition vessel to Yokohama. 
Shirase's party are greeted by crowds waving +-shaped Southern Cross 
flags. The signification was completely bewildering: to an Australian the 
flags were identical to ones most here assume are exclusively the 'Eureka' 
flag, of Australia's traditional nationalist (and very Japanese-phobic) 
19th c independance movement. Only later did someone who knew a little of 
Japanese emigration history suggest that the Southern Cross flag might 
have a very different meaning in early 20th century Japan. 


Quentin Turnour, Programmer, 
Access, Research and Development
National Film and Sound Archive, Australia

"Roger Macy" <macyroger at> 
Sent by: owner-KineJapan at
09/02/2010 12:56 AM
Please respond to
KineJapan at

<KineJapan at>

Re: question regarding early archives and Japanese film

The main account on West Coast Japanese cinema circuits of the period 
still seems to be The Exhibition of Films for Japanese Americans in Los 
Angeles During the Silent Era by Junko Ogihara, 1990 in Film History 4: 
pp81-87.  I seem to recall that Junko herself was able to answer a similar 
query on this list a few years back.  I would love to hear that more work 
had been done.  We are talking of California !
The literature persistently refers to 'captured Japanese films'.  But, as 
Markus has raised, captured from whom, when and where ?   The numerous 
accounts I have read on Capra's outfit just refer to the films' arriving. 
Rotha, in his appendix to the 1952 (3rd edtn.) The Documentary Film, gives 
an account of Iris Barry (she, again) as the central figure, providing 
much information to him, and it is possible that a trawl of the Rotha 
papers might pull something in.  But given the total lack of Asian focus 
of either writer, and that I haven't had a sniff of Japanese films coming 
through New York, it hasn't seemed worth a transatlantic trip to prove 
another negative.  In the brief time I had at the National Archives in 
Washington, it didn't seem difficult to find inventories and 
correspondence on captured German and Italian films, but I drew a blank on 
the provenance of Japanese films.  They appeared very soon after Pearl 
Harbor, when the allies were far from capturing or liberating any 
Japanese-held territories.  Some may have acquired from hastily-abandoned 
Japanese institutions in the west, but I have seen no evidence that such 
organisations were propagating or widely exhibiting information films, let 
alone feature films. 
So does 'captured' mean 'not paid for' ?   Were some, or most of these 
confiscated from Americans who entered camps ?  I suppose it would matter 
whether the films were rented, or owned outright by their contemporary 
holders, as to a fair categorisation.  Impounded or looted ?
And the other U.S place to do research is Hawaii ...
Quentin, I am inferring from your posting that there was no pre-war 
Japanese-Australian community.  But has anyone looked at the possibility 
of Japanese film exhibition in South America ?
----- Original Message ----- 
From: Quentin Turnour 
To: KineJapan at 
Sent: Monday, February 08, 2010 7:56 AM
Subject: Re: question regarding early archives and Japanese film

How established was the US West Coast Japanese cinema circuit before the 
War? Were prints come in via that and staying in the US - and who outside 
of the Japanese-American community was seeing them pre-1941 - or 

I remember asking a few US film archivists and historians about this some 
years ago, when I doing some research on extensive Greek, Italian  (and to 
a lesser extent Chinese ) immigrant cinema circuits that existed down here 
and was curious about equivalent US migrant cinema circuits. I was a bit 
surprised that (at least then) there didn't seem to be much of a 
literature on this history. I could have not been looking in the right 
places (this was in the early days of the Web) and wouldn't surprise me if 
much more work had been done since. Be curious to know. 

Quentin Turnour, Programmer, 
Access, Research and Development
National Film and Sound Archive, Australia

Mark Nornes <amnornes at> 
Sent by: owner-KineJapan at 
08/02/2010 02:37 PM 

Please respond to
KineJapan at

"KineJapan at" <KineJapan at> 
Mark Nornes <amnornes at> 
Re: question regarding early archives and Japanese film

Frank Capra and Ruth Benedict were watching Japanese feature films shortly 
after Pearl Harbor. Where did the prints come from? It's an interesting 
question. And as Roger indicates, the alternative universe where a 
powerful programmer got behind Asian film could have altered the bedrock 
of "international cinema" long before Rashomon. 


On Feb 7, 2010, at 7:26 PM, Roger Macy wrote: 

Dear William, 
This is a crucial point that you have hit. 
Iris Barry is one of a very small number of people who, if they had any 
Asian focus, would have radically changed the preserved landscape of film 
Presumably like you, I found very little to go on at MoMA.  So, I followed 
the money to the Rockefeller Foundation.  The short answer is yes, its 
collection activities were limited to the United States and Europe, 
including the Soviet Union, and there was no failed rescue attempt for 
Japan.  But there is a slightly longer story which is likely to be told 
Is there any chance we could meet at KinemaClub X ? 
----- Original Message ----- 
From: ReelDrew at 
To: KineJapan at 
Sent: Sunday, February 07, 2010 10:52 PM 
Subject: question regarding early archives and Japanese film 

I am right now working on the final draft of my forthcoming book, "The 
Last Silent Picture Show: Silent Films on American Screens in the 1930s." 
Presently, I'm doing the revisions for a chapter on the archival movement 
and the Museum of Modern Art in the '30s. 
Relating this to Japanese film, I point out that MOMA in the Iris Barry 
years (1935-1951) limited its collection of early cinema--and the programs 
of early films it featured--to the historical development of filmmaking in 
the United States, Western Europe and the Soviet Union.  What I'd like to 
find out from knowledgeable people here is does anyone know if my 
information is accurate?  Has anyone here, for example, seen any 
correspondence or other documents indicating that Iris Barry was planning 
a program on the history of Japanese cinema (and those of India and China 
as well) in say, 1939 but that the outbreak of WWII halted this project? 
Or am I correct in my assumption that the standard view of the historical 
development of cinema in those days, as set forth at MOMA, completely 
omitted the early contributions of Latin America, the Middle East and 
Asia, including Japan? 
I should point out that in the 1930s and 1940s, the Museum of Modern Art 
Film Library, contrary to Peter Decherney's tendentious assertions in 
"Hollywood and the Culture Elite," was not a national film archive and, in 
fact, many important areas in early American film history were neglected 
due to Iris Barry's international focus.  Many at the time, in fact, felt 
it was her preoccupation with the European art film that caused her to 
overlook so much of the American cinema.  Or perhaps in fairness to her, 
she was trying to balance America and Europe in the collection she built 
up.  However, what I think was clearly left out of the film history 
programs established by Barry at MOMA was the entire historical production 
of cinema in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America during the first half 
of the 20th century.  I am not aware that Barry made any effort in the 
1930s and 1940s to obtain examples of filmmaking from those countries 
beyond Hollywood and Europe.  If anyone here, however, has information to 
the contrary, specifically, of course, with respect to Japanese cinema, I 
would very much like to know.  I wish my analysis to be as accurate as 
William M. Drew 

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