the eerie silence on KineJapan is maddening!

Quentin Turnour Quentin.Turnour at
Sun Mar 20 10:03:22 EDT 2011

Sorry. I've been off-line for 48 hours so have missed the latest eerie 
cacophony of Kinejapan traffic. So what follows might be a bit behind the 
conversational wave. 

Some of that time has been spent in nocturnal hours channel surfing BBC 
World, NHK World and our own ABC News 24. I'm not there, so won't comment 
about life in Tokyo. But here we got the same hours and hours of the same 
farcical, hysterical and egocentric reporting in our local press (or more 
concern about who the Saudi Arabia of Uranium is going to sell to now) as 
so many on the list have complained - without the option of the daily 
reality check of Japanese street life. (With odd exceptions; our SBS 
Channel's 'Dateline' program choose to send producers rather than 
reporters to Japan, to commission English-speaking Japanese freelancers to 
do the reporting. One piece tonight, by Toshi Maeda , was powerful, with the stinging coda of 
the journalist ending his report with how, when he returned from northeast 
Honshu, his own Spanish-born partner announced she also wanted to leave 
Japan, taking their one year old child).

No matter what your know is really going on, all this leaves feeling 
panicked about people you care about in Tokyo . But now you find that to 
express any private hysteria would be to succumb to public, press and even 
your own government's hysteria. You get depressed, or whipped up watching 
the TV, the Net, the press, but then feel the need to be nonchalant. So 
you even start avoiding emailing Japanese friends so as not to seem to 
have joined the stampede of dishonour and silliness. 

Opinions you have are also very skittish. I too noticed, on the first 
Friday night, the 'anachronism' of a man from the metrology bureau doing 
his presentation on Tsunami behaviour to the world press using old-fashion 
overhead projector transparencies. It didn't seem quaint at the time. I 
confess that I joked about it in an email to a Japanese friend soon after. 
One week on I am now profoundly apologetic for this insensitivity... 

As a result here, to, there has been a bit of catatonic walking into 
doors. But once out the door I've had to go to work at a film archive, 
being a showman, if you will, of moving image cultural heritage.  This 
weekend we ran Naruse's YOGOTO NO YUME and KIMI TO WATARETE, with 
accompaniment by a leading Japanese Australian koto player. 

I have no doubt that presenting curated screening programs of Naruse or 
Ozu is not particularly important for the staff at the NFC at the moment, 
either. But for film archivists now really is the time they are - and they 
must be - worrying about national cultural heritage. They are doing so in 
addition to, and not instead of, worrying about human lives; indeed as a 
compliment to humanity.

Japanese film archivists are deeply aware of the damage that natural (and 
man-made) disaster has done to their film heritage: the near complete loss 
of pre-1923 films, the huge gaps in the early Showa record up to 1945. I 
sometimes even feel that some see the profound lost of Japanese early 20th 
century film heritage as some metaphor for the proud loss of lives, of 
genetic potential if you will. It is only nitrate cellulose - but it is 
also a set of documents that represented something of the societies and 
individuals looked and live before major natural disaster changed those 
lives and societies and then how they changed. As perhaps the most recent 
disaster will probably do, and as the adoption of the descriptor "3/11" 

This is at the level of national record. Most of the subscribers to this 
list are here because of their commitment to one nation's moving image 
cultural heritage. If the very moving images being discussed in this topic 
- the moving image record of the 2011 earthquake - vanished, we'd be in 
the same situation as we so often are when talking about Japanese moving 
image heritage before 1945: we have reams of primary descriptions and 
discussion about moving images, but the images themselves are lost.

But it is also at the level of the personal and the psyche. I live in a 
nation where most summers one side of land is on fire, whilst the other is 
being inundated by swollen rivers. The first and often only thing people 
often take when they flee either of these threats are family photographs 
or videos. Maybe that's culturally specific reaction. But a record of our 
lives is emotionally, psychically and socially essential to the meaning 
many people make of their lives.

I can put it in archivist's rhetorical terms, although apologies if it 
might seem a little inhumane in this context. A-V materials are hugely 
environmentally sensitive. Recovering the information on them that has 
been damaged by environment - the images, the sounds, the words, the 
representations of humans and societies - can be intensely time sensitive, 
or sensitive to the casual mishandling unavoidable in disaster recovery . 
Basic information and instant, cost-free actions will save heritage that 
can be gone in an instant, or be hugely expensive to restore at a future 

Perhaps, too, looking after cultural heritage is something you can do, 
when and if you are unable to do anything else.

The Film Preservation Society  is a community network that I feel has 
always been about the importance of communities keeping their moving image 
heritage as a way of keeping their communal memory alive. The Home Movie 
Days they organise and which I've attended in Japan are the most vivid 
expression of this idea that I've ever come across. The FPS is a no-budget 
operation and its members would be the first to value saving lives, 
reviving infrastructure, genuine mourning, fighting the inequity that 
natural disasters often expose. But its mission is also to say: what comes 
next. And how do we remember?

Quentin Turnour, 
National Film and Sound Archive, Australia

Me <matteo.boscarol at> 
Sent by: owner-KineJapan at
18/03/2011 11:05 PM
Please respond to
KineJapan at

"KineJapan at" <KineJapan at>
"KineJapan at" <KineJapan at>, 
Lindsay Nelson <lrnelson at>
Re: the eerie silence on KineJapan is maddening!

I completely agree with Faith, not time to think about cultural heritage 
now, sorry.

Matteo Boscarol 

Sent from my iPhone

On 2011/03/18, at 20:29, Pete Larson <pslarson2 at> wrote:

I'm glad someone agrees with me that the foreign coverage of the nuclear 
reactor has been vastly oversensationalized and has been riddled with 
disinformation and misinformation. This extremely poor coverage comes at 
the expense of the people who were directly affected by the quake and the 
following tsunami. These are the people who should be receiving coverage. 
Granted, it has all the Hollywood that one could ever want. 

Most disturbing to me has been the awful dehumanization of people living 
in Japan, and the portrayal of Japan as inherently dangerous for 
foreigners, reinforcing tired stereotypes of the US as the only safe place 
for Americans.

On 3/18/2011 4:23 AM, Lindsay Nelson wrote: 
As someone who has been in Tokyo since August (currently in Kyoto to have 
a bit of a break from the aftershocks), I can say a few things.

1. The nuclear power plant story is being ridiculously sensationalized in 
the American media. Article after article and expert after expert have 
declared that there is absolutely no danger to anyone outside the 
immediate vicinity of the plant, and yet the major news outlets ignore 
these stories and continue to vamp up the fear. Worse, they do this at the 
expense of reporting on the real crisis, which is the 400,000 + people in 
the northeast who have limited food, water, and shelter and are already 
dying as a result. 

2. Many people have made the decision to leave--at least temporarily--for 
a variety of reasons. Aftershocks were constant for the first 24 hours 
after the quake, and they continue even now. I personally have not slept 
much at all for the past week--partially because of the stress of the 
aftershocks, and partially because I have been dealing with frantic, 
panicked family members who were horrified that I hadn't fled the city. I 
also worried about blackouts as my only heater is electric, it's getting 
very cold, and kerosene / space heaters are completely sold out. I've left 
for a few days to get some sleep and try to re-group, but I plan to 
return. The bottom line is that even if there is no danger from the power 
plant, there are plenty of other reasons why people might choose to leave. 
And given the changing nature of the power plant situation and the huge 
amount of conflicting information available, I can understand why some 
people would be concerned enough to leave. 

3. Regarding film archives and screenings--for the most part it's business 
as usual in Tokyo. The scheduled blackouts have been avoided so far 
because people are doing a great job of conserving energy. Some 
universities have postponed classes and some smaller companies have shut 
down to allow their employees to spend time with their families, but most 
places are up and running. Very few Japanese are leaving the city (the 
shinkansen were crowded today as I headed for Kyoto, but Monday is a 
national holiday, so that's not too surprising). If regular blackouts 
become a necessity this will of course impact daily life considerably, but 
for now other than slightly reduced train service, a gasoline shortage, 
and shortages of items like bread, milk, and rice (really just the result 
of over-buying, not an actual shortage), Tokyo seems pretty normal to me. 

I provide informal updates about the situation on the ground and links to 
helpful articles at

--Lindsay Nelson

On Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 12:03 AM, Quentin Turnour <
Quentin.Turnour at> wrote:


Perhaps to shift things just to the issue of film archives...Thanks for 
your great and thoughtful post, Odd also considering I've just spent the 
morning doing a run through of the NFC's 35mm print of the 
SHINGUN/MARCHING ON and also reading your great on-line article about this 
unusual early Showa silent. 

Literarily a few minutes after your post came up, Kae Ishihara at the Film 
Preservation Society posted an email and link to English-speaking FPS 

In the last few days I've had some contact with her, Akira Tochigi at the 
NFC and a few others in the Japanese screen culture community (such as 
Fujioka Asako of the Yamagata Doco festival - a cultural event which of 
course takes place within a prefecture once removed but still very close 
to the tragedy of the tsunami). But Kae's email is a great summary of 
what's happening with the NFC and regional film archives, and even some 
Japanese film industry matters - Sony's HDCam tape plant was at Sendai, 
for example. 

As I alluded to, ironically we've been doing a season here of 1920s 
Japanese silents from the NFC and Matsuda, and the reconstruction of the 
Kanto area post-1923 obviously looms as a sub-text in many of the films we 
were screening... Or as a text on some of the mid-1920s Ministry of 
Education Tokyo reconstruction films, such as the eccentric PUBLIC MANNERS 
TOKYO SIGHTSEEING (...which has led us to making the decision to postponed 
a screening of these films). 

Our program included a visit by the benshi Mr. Kotoaka Ichiro, who bravely 
went ahead with a performance of his final session only minutes after 
getting the news of the earthquake and then had some difficulties getting 
back to Tokyo from Australia the following day. We are currently ben asked 
to hold the prints from this series for the NFC until advised; as the 
FPS's site indicate it seems not so much that their facilities have been 
damaged, but shipping services are still unreliable, power is a problem 
and staff simply have having trouble getting to work 

Finally, and noting the debate that your email inadvertently sparked over 
foreign perceptions... Those who know some of the history of what happened 
in the wake of Great Kanto will remember that immediate international 
goodwill degenerated badly in mutual recrimination in the weeks and months 
following; especially in Japanese-US relations. Whilst some of this had to 
do with the coming of US legislation restricting Japanese immigration, the 
beginnings of militant nationalism, and a   trickle of international press 
accounts of bad Japanese official behaviour (especially of the anti-Korean 
pogroms), lets hope the same thing doesn't happen again. 

Quentin Turnour, Programmer, 
Access, Research and Development
National Film and Sound Archive, Australia
McCoy Circuit, Acton, 
phone: +61 2 6248 2054  |  fax: + 61 2 6249 8159

The National Film and Sound Archive collects, preserves and provides 
access to Australia's historic and contemporary moving image and recorded 
sound culture. 

ReelDrew at 
Sent by: owner-KineJapan at 
18/03/2011 02:27 PM 

Please respond to 

KineJapan at

KineJapan at 

the eerie silence on KineJapan is maddening!

I have been a member of KineJapan for the last ten years. I joined 
originally out of a need to obtain translations of the intertitles of 
Japanese silents on VHS in my collection. I am very grateful to those 
members on KineJapan who aided me and made it possible for me to, among 
other things, write an article on Hiroshi Shimizu that is published on 
Midnight Eye. 
Since then, I have regularly received almost daily the messages that have 
been posted here. In all honesty, a large number--perhaps the majority, in 
fact--have been of limited interest to me inasmuch as they tend to deal 
with contemporary Japanese films. Consistent with my enthusiasm for films 
in other countries, including my own, produced in earlier decades, it is 
my interest in the Japanese cinema of the past, especially the films of 
the 1920s and 1930s, that has been of consuming interest to me. 
Nevertheless, from time to time issues involving those golden years do 
come up here. 
However, whether or not the topic has been of particular interest to me, I 
have always valued the fact that KineJapan has always been there, an 
extremely valuable resource to be consulted when needed. Never before 
since I've been here did this group shut down. Certainly, it was very 
active right through the events of 9/11 as were other film discussion 
groups in which I participated. 
Since the tragic events that began a week ago, though, this place has 
suddenly turned into a ghost town. Aside from a very limited amount of p
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