If we were to deepen the methodology that has the documentary camera facing two poles, between assimilation and othering, this film represents the move to the assimilation end. One could say the camera is one of the people appearing in the film.
Asahi Shinbun, quoted on a Heta Village flier from 1974
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.
“When Ogawa Productions began its work in Sanrizuka, they sniffed out the most tenacious and committed farmers they could find and set up shop in the hamlet of Heta. Today this same location sits at the airport border, squarely under the roaring planes leaving the second runway. All of the houses are gone. However, when Ogawa arrived, the farmers were joined by activists from across the country and their protests transformed into an epic struggle, a new and modern episode in Japan’s long history of peasant uprisings.
Ogawa and his collective carefully documented this process over nine years and seven films, which constitute a monument in the history of Japanese cinema. Cameraman Otsu shot the first film before becoming Tsuchimoto Noriaki’s partner on the Minamata Series, a series of independent documentaries focusing on an infamous mercury poisoning incident in Minamata, Japan. The rich archival footage in The Wages of Resistance comes from their collection of outtakes. No doubt the effort of Ogawa Productions culminated in their masterpiece Heta Village. They shot this film in 1973 in the emotional wake left by the murder of three policemen and the subsequent suicide of their young neighbor Sannomiya Fumio. Elsewhere in Japan, the resistance was reaching the extremes of arson, torture and murder. A weariness set in as the Vietnam War wound down, the older generation of activists started families, and Narita Airport began flying planes. Movement politics swiftly deteriorated, resistance all but died, and the roar of jet engines replaced the cries of demonstrations in Sanrizuka.
Ogawa’s Heta Village is notable for the manner in which it captures this moment. Their previous films were chock-full of violent spectacle, but in this quiet film those clashes are pushed off-screen. The filmmakers focus instead on the spiritual and emotional dilemmas provoked in villagers by the recent deaths.”
From ‘Wages of Resistance and the Spiritual Problem of Sanrizuka’ by Markus Nornes