The program ‘Of Time and Struggle’ highlights four crucial documentaries made by Ogawa Productions between 1971 and 1986. This collective of filmmakers, founded in the late sixties, under the direction of Ogawa Shinsuke, chronicled with remarkable dedication some of the major political and social upheavals in Japan’s ‘season of politics’ from the 1960s through the 1970s, including the struggles of the student movement and long-term resistance by farmers in Sanrizuka. Ogawa Productions’ work aspired to collective decision-making, achieving an unusual level of engagement with the people they filmed. They aimed to make independent and partisan films, while at the same time developing alternative ways for distributing, screening and discussing their work.
“I think that ‘symbiosis’, (kyôseikan) as a goal or aim for the documentary, first came into parlance with Tsuchimoto... The filmmaker tries to take in and accept all the troubles, the conflicts, really the whole existence of the object being filmed. That’s fundamentally different from the Western style of filmmaking. In the West, the object is never anything more than an element of the work, a particular work that is being made by a given filmmaker for him or herself. I think you can also see the effects of the Japanese attempts at a ‘symbiotic relationship’ in the way the objects of the film are treated, or in the way the director refers to them. For example, Tsuchimoto doesn’t call those suffering from Minamata disease simply kanja (victim), but he adds the polite suffix ‘-san’: Kanja-san (victim-san). Ogawa refers to the farmers in his films with the honorific expression ‘nômin no katagata.’ They elevate the object of the film to their own level, or are treating the relationship with their objects and the objects themselves with a degree of respect.”
“Sanrizuka: Peasants of the Second Fortress is the best known issue of the Sanrizuka Series. It is also the most emotionally draining of the films. It records the first land expropriation, which took place between 22 February and 6 March 1971. In January the Hantai dômei (the farmer-led opposition organization) anticipated the expropriation, which was only announced a week ahead of time, by digging tunnel networks in critical locations. The tunnels were protected by five fortresses scattered across the construction site. Made of wood, scrap metal, logs and barbed wire, the farmers fully expected the fortresses to be bulldozed and the tunnels turned into graves. You could call this film The Seven Samurai of social protest documentaries for the epic scale of its depiction of farmers fending off invading ‘bandits’, its moving commentary about power and human nature, as well as its revered place in the history of Japanese cinema.”
From ‘Mimesis and Musicality in the Documentary of Ogawa Shinsuke’ by Abé Mark Nornes