the eerie silence on KineJapan is maddening!

Mark Roberts mroberts37 at
Fri Mar 18 04:00:28 EDT 2011


I would guess that the recent silence on KineJapan is mostly because  
people are caught up following the situation in Japan, and trying to  
begin to digest the scope of the disaster. As Paul and Maria have  
said, there is a fair amount of confusion about what's actually going  
on, the nuclear crisis is both alarming and fluid, and it takes a fair  
amount of time to sort and sift through various media sources. But the  
mood in Tokyo is much calmer, I think, than you would believe from  
reading the news in Europe or America.

Many foreigners in Japan are taking short trips to Kansai, but the  
same does not appear true for Japanese. An "evacuation of the capital"  
would be very unlikely, but the Western media somehow makes it seem  
possible. At this moment, I would not worry about the disaster having  
a dramatic impact on Japanese film heritage. As Ayako said: the NFC  
may be closed but the collection as a whole is probably not in danger.  
(And thank you, Quentin, for the link to the FPS news feed!).

Right now, the main disruption in Tokyo seems to be the teiden  
(rolling blackouts), which have reduced power and train service. As a  
consequence, many offices and businesses are on limited schedules.  
Many schools and universities as well. While the nuclear crisis is  
serious and worrisome, no significant radiation has been detected in  
Tokyo. One of my friends here found two Geiger counters on the  
Internet, one in Chiba and one in West Los Angeles, and the one in  
L.A. is actually showing more(!) radiation. Again, this could could  
change, but what the Tokyo counters seem to show right now is pretty  
much normal background radiation.

Unfortunately, the earthquake disaster is going to have a significant  
economic impact, and this may affect funding for film culture, both  
public and private. I would be curious to hear what others think about  
this. At a broader level, though, there could be some positive  
dimensions. E.g., there will be a large population of refugees (bad),  
but this could fuel calls to outlaw reikin, or revision of tenant  
policies and parasitic real estate management (potentially good).

Finally, I really hope that discussion of the Great Tohoku Quake and  
Japanese Cinema, and information updates can continue to appear here  
on KineJapan. I hope others will agree with me that streams of twitter  
blurts are not an adequate substitute for an e-mail list like KJ. I'm  
not really interested in the subtleties of ethical tweeting, where  
tweeters are going for lunch, etc.


Mark Roberts
Research Fellow, University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy

On Mar 18, 2011, at 12:26 PM, ReelDrew at wrote:

> 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 posts specifically on the topic of the tsunami, there has  
> been absolutely nothing here. No one has even bothered to post how  
> things are going on in Tokyo, while all sorts of wild, apocalyptic  
> rumors circulate unchecked in the US that Tokyo is about to become  
> irradiated, that it may be doomed. I believe a few welcome posts  
> here from knowledgeable people in the Japanese capital might help to  
> clarify the situation and perhaps alleviate some of these fears.
> I have had a consuming obsession with early Japanese cinema for the  
> last 36 years. In trying to interest people in the West in this  
> topic and to recognize the value of Japanese films from those years,  
> I have long had to confront an enormous amount of indifference and  
> insensitivity to these achievements by too many in America and  
> elsewhere in the outside world. It has taken so long to bring  
> attention to these films here. Indeed, it was only this January that  
> the premier venue for classic cinema in the United States, Turner  
> Classic Movies, after being on the air for 17 years, finally  
> presented three Japanese silents--Ozu's famous masterpieces, "Tokyo  
> Chorus," "I Was Born, But. . .," and "Passing Fancy." So it is only  
> very recently that this neglected period of Japanese film is just  
> starting to receive some recognition here.
> Given this obession of mine, I would very much like to know how the  
> archives and other collections of Japanese cinema are coping with  
> the current crisis in Tokyo. Are they able to function normally in  
> their work of preservation considering the power blackouts etc.? If  
> there really should be an evacuation of the capital, has there been  
> discussion of removing films and other cultural treasures from Tokyo  
> to Kyoto, a much safer city and which I personally feel should be  
> restored to the position of Japan's capital?
> As to whether now is the proper time to discuss the preservation of  
> culture in view of the terrible loss of life and the continuing  
> threat, I believe that, far from being at odds or incompatible, the  
> preservation of human life and humanity's cultural heritage are  
> inseparable. The heroic people of Egypt have shown all of us the way  
> recently in this area. During a time of turmoil in which a corrupt,  
> discredited dictatorship was attempting to hang on to power by  
> employing ruthless methods against the protestors, demonstrators  
> courageously appeared to form human chains around the Library in  
> Alexandria and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to protect these  
> treasures of our history. I would hope that, should it ever become  
> necessary, a similar sense of cultural responsibility will be  
> demonstrated in other countries, including Japan. The heritage of  
> Japan, including its film history, is the common property not just  
> of one country but indeed, the legacy of all the people of the earth.
> In all those non-Western countries that the West chose to lump  
> together as "Oriental," for much of the 20th century the four most  
> significant in terms of creating outstanding cinemas in the first  
> half of the last century were Japan, China, India, and Egypt. This  
> preeminence in the new art of film was emblematic of these nations'  
> continuing cultural leadership in the modern world. In terms of  
> documenting and preserving the national film heritage, however,  
> Egypt under the Mubarak regime was scandalous. The Egyptian film  
> archive was by far the worst run in the entire world, mismanaged by  
> members of Mubarak's family. So neglected was the state of the  
> archive that it was a common sight to see rats crawling out of cans  
> of film in the vaults. The situation with the Egyptian archive was  
> thus symptomatic of the larger ills afflicting the society under the  
> corrupt regime that ruled Egypt for thirty years. Needless to say,  
> with the present rebirth of Egypt through revolution there is a far  
> greater hope that the glories of Egyptian cinema from its bright  
> beginnings in the silent era to the achievements of later decades  
> will be at last properly preserved.
> While the infrastructure of Japan including its archives can hardly  
> compare to its counterparts in Egypt in the Mubarak years, there has  
> nevertheless been a steady decline in Japan in the two decades since  
> the economic bubble burst in the early 1990s. Egypt is now trying to  
> recover from a social disaster, Japan from a natural one  
> exacerbated, it seems, by a variant of the same corruption and  
> cronyism that long afflicted Egypt. I think Japan, like Egypt, will  
> need to transform itself anew, but as with Egypt, that  
> transformation must be solidly based on the preservation and  
> dissemination of past achievements including a glorious legacy of  
> early cinema. Consequently, in addition to my general concern at the  
> eerie silence that has suddenly taken over KineJapan, as though all  
> its members have been struck dumb, I would in particular like to  
> know how the film archives and other institutions consecrated to  
> cinema history in Japan are faring during the present crisis.
> William M. Drew

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...

More information about the KineJapan mailing list