[KineJapan] Kawase to direct Olympics doc

Markus Nornes nornes at umich.edu
Sun Oct 28 00:02:40 EDT 2018

I've never had problems with Kawase, who I've known since she showed some
Yamagata staff Ni Tsusumarete in some classroom shortly after it was done.
But I've heard plenty of stories of misbehavior over the years. It's

The comparison to Leni Riefenstahl is really unfair. Aside from the fact
that one was an actor and the other is a prominent director, the LDP are
not Nazis and Abe is hardly Hitler. The historical contexts are also
entirely different.

The only real comparison to make has to do with collaboration. But
collaboration means something very different in today's Japan than Germany,
even in the early 30s. I am writing up something up about the tough
position of Chinese filmmakers today. A new film law went into effect
recently that is as pernicious as anything the Nazis drew up (I'm teaching
the latter right now). It has effectively destroyed any space for
independent cinema. Anything made now must be integrated into official
culture and structures, starting with censorship. I just got back from
Hanzhou's West Lake Film Festival, where "collaboration" was a point of
huge concern. The choice is as stark as collaborate, quit or go into exile.

I like the way Aaron puts the issue vis a vis the Olympics "boondoggle."
How Kawase comports herself vis a vis the nationalistic BS the games are
embedded in will be the question. I'm glad she's doing it, and think it's a
great choice. Here's an accomplished fiction filmmaker, and a woman
director, who has shown a deep commitment to the documentary. I've dipped
into the massive Criterion Collection 100 Years of Olympic Documentaries.
They really aren't very good, despite a slew of major names (almost all
men, and mainly fiction feature filmmakers). I hope she lets loose
form-wise and does an Olympics film like no other. If she doesn't the
judgement will be far more severe than what's being written now, that's for


*Markus Nornes*
*Professor of Asian Cinema*
Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, Department of Asian Languages and
Cultures, Penny Stamps School of Art & Design

*Department of Screen Arts and Cultures*
*6348 North Quad*
*105 S. State Street*
*Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1285*

On Sat, Oct 27, 2018 at 11:07 PM Frederick Veith <notreconciled at gmail.com>

> Aaron,
> Thanks for the detailed reply. Being in complete opposition to the
> Olympics myself, that makes sense to me, and isn't surprising. I admit to
> having been morbidly curious about Kawase's reception for a long time now,
> but even leaving aside responses to Kawase the person, I'm not sure I see
> the mismatch that Ishitobi-san (from what little I could see) seemed to be
> concerned about, which is partly why I was curious about other responses. I
> don't find Kawase's films to be at all apolitical, but even without getting
> into the fraught territory of the implicit politics of some of her work,
> there's an approach to spectacle already in a work like Sharasoujyu which
> seems to me not at all uncongenial to the task of "officially" documenting
> the Olympics, whatever else I may think of the politics either of the
> filmmaker, the event itself, or the propriety of that task.
> Fred.
> On Sun, Oct 28, 2018 at 11:25 AM Gerow Aaron <aaron.gerow at yale.edu> wrote:
>> Fred,
>> First and foremost is that many of the people I am connected to are
>> against the Olympics itself. Kawase, to them, should be filming the
>> neglected people of Fukushima, Okinawa, or Kumamoto and not latch onto the
>> officialdom who is neglecting those people. (In some ways, this reminds me
>> of the furor over Expo 70, when some filmmakers objected to Matsumoto
>> Toshio and others deciding to collaborate with the Expo.) One friend on FB
>> said it would be great if Kawase slyly put in messages about how the
>> Olympics are actually hurting the people of Fukushima in her documentary,
>> but that friend very much doubts that will happen: Kawase has been largely
>> a-political in her filmmaking and has often been willing to serve on
>> government committees.
>> Some colleagues suggested the comparison between Kawase and Leni
>> Riefenstahl, perhaps implying that this is a woman filmmaker interested in
>> art who doesn’t have a problem working for a regime with fascist tendencies
>> if it can allow her to make films.
>> Also, some have speculated about why Kawase got the nod. One rumor that
>> was reported—and all I can say is that it is a rumor—is that Abe Akie, the
>> wife of the prime minister, is a big fan of Sweet Bean, and has often cited
>> it in speeches.
>> And frankly, there are a lot of people out there who don’t like Kawase
>> personally. Earl has just mentioned one of many incidents news of which has
>> spread through the grapevine.
>> I should stress that I am here just reporting some of what I have read. I
>> don’t attest to the veracity of all of it, or agree with all of it. But I
>> do think the first one is a major issue: collaborating with a godawful
>> boondoggle that is literally hurting people is problem. If she could turn
>> that around and criticize the Olympics in her own documentary, that would
>> be wonderful. But I very much doubt that will happen.
>> Aaron
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