Online Screenings:
Approaching Japanese Cinema through Independent Filmmaking in Asia


            This online film screening series is a collection of auteur voices articulated through various modes of filmmaking. By collaborating with independent filmmakers operating in diverse localities and highlighting projects of varying scale, we hope to facilitate a stimulating dialogue with the conference talks, but also resituate Japanese cinema in Asia during the uncertain times in the era of COVID-19.

            In the NUEC Exclusive section, we are proud and honored to present an acclaimed film by transnational documentary filmmaker Haneda Sumiko alongside a collection of works by Kuzoku, a film collective led by Tomita Katsuya and Aizawa Toranosuke, whose works have made a strong impression at film festivals worldwide. Haneda's testimonial masterpiece not only passes through the physical border between Japan and China but also transgresses the temporal border between the colonial history of imperial Japan and the present. Renowned as a film collective that explores the heterogeneity and limits of the concept of "Asia", Kuzoku's early works give us a glimpse of their creative trajectories.

            The selection of Haptic Animation provides an alternative narrative of Japanese animation history: stressing its texture, materiality, and corporeality. We see a renewed concern for the artistry and mechanics of animation production, which tend to be overlooked in the digital and transmedia anime mainstream. Our selection presents both contemporary films that attempt to rethink what animation means through an exploration of its materiality and archival films that reveal the haptic nature of Japanese animation’s roots.

            Young, emerging filmmakers are featured in the NEXT Generation section, where experimental and artistic images serve as the vehicle to explore their subjectivities. While some films are testament to the creative talents of these young filmmakers and showcase their penchant for aesthetic experimentation, others look inward, utilizing the medium of film to interrogate personal experience and memory.

            Last but not least, in Archival Screening, we showcase the longest extant version of Tokkan Kozo, a 1929 silent film by Ozu Yasujiro, with a new piano score recorded by Mie Yanashita. The journey of this twenty two minutes fragment presents an object lesson in how film history is shaped by the diversity of film formats and the transnational network of the film archive community. Ozu's twelfth film was considered lost until 1988, when a 14-minute home entertainment version (9.5mm Pathé Baby) resurfaced in a private collection. In 2015, Toy Film Museum in Kyoto obtained another Pathé Baby version that contained additional sequences. This web-ready version is provided by the University of Rochester Digital Scholarship Lab which also created the DCP for Pordenone Silent Film Festival 2018 from IMAGICA Lab. (formerly IMAGICA WEST) and presented courtesy of Toy Film Museum. (For more, see Joanne Bernardi's program note and Routledge Handbook of Japanese Cinema)

            We hope everyone will enjoy our films and have a wonderful time re-exploring Japanese cinema via independent filmmaking in Asia.

Film List

Aa Manmo Kaitakudan (嗚呼 満蒙開拓団)      

HANEDA Sumiko / 120min / 2008 / Streaming available from Mar 1-7, 2021

(Japanese Subtitles Only)

Born in imperial Japan’s colony of Manchuria, filmmaker Haneda Sumiko travels across national borders to question the foundations of her national identity as well as to explore the roots of her personal history through a collection of testimonies that reflect on the issues of Japanese war orphans left behind in China.

Hanamonogatari Babylon (花物語バビロン)          

AIZAWA Toranosuke (KUZOKU) / 46 min / 1997 / Streaming available from Mar 7-13, 2021

Babylon Flower Story ventures deep into Thailand to the Golden Triangle and the minority Hmong village. Part historical documentary and part travel film, the director juxtaposes texts with voices to cast a haunting look on the legacy of opium through his journey.

Above the Clouds (雲の上)          

TOMITA Katsuya (KUZOKU) / 115 min / 2003 / Streaming available from Mar 7-13, 2021

A gangster leader in a Japanese rural town tries to spiritually cleanse himself through exploring a local myth about an ancient dragon. The script creation and shooting took 5 years, during which the director, Kuzoku’s Katsuya, realized the burdening influence of external events and self-discovery to filmmaking.

Off Highway 20 (国道20号線)          

TOMITA Katsuya (KUZOKU) / 77 min / 2007 / Streaming available from Mar 7-13, 2021

Highway 20 begins at the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo and stretches west. Once it goes through the capital it proceeds through small towns where the scenery is typical of any seen from Japan's highways: shopping malls, discount outlets, pachinko parlors, ATM loan dispensing machines, karaoke clubs, golf practice ranges and love inns... The film unfolds in one such town, Kofu, revolving around the lives of its locals: a drama that could unfold in any Japanese rural town.

The Dull Sword (なまくら刀)         

KOUCHI Junichi / 4min / 1917 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

One of the earliest works of Japanese animation, The Dull Sword (brought back in its complete form through intricate digital restoration) highlights rhythmic stop animations and cinematic story structure and presentation. In an era of experimentation in animation as well as the pure film movement in Japanese cinema, the use of traditional Japanese subjects in the context of an allegorical comedy shows the provocative flare of animator Junichi Kouchi.

My Little Goat (マイリトルゴート)      

MISATO Tomoki / 10min / 2018 / Streaming available from Mar 1-7, 2021

My Little Goat reimagines The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats fairy tale with some thrilling twists. The well-crafted characters and sets bring not only the stop-motion animation but also the texture and atmosphere of the film to life.

The Golden Flower (こがねの花)          

OFUJI Noburo / 17min / 1929 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

Ofuji Noburo, a genius from the early days of Japanese animation, created this chiyogami animation based on the rakugo story "Tanokyu”.

The Spirits of Cairn (ケアンの首達)           

SOEJIMA Shinobu / 7min / 2018 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

This puppet animation depicts a mysterious afterlife and is based on research into Asian folklore and religious motifs. Although this is the artist's first animated work, it has already received invitations from several international animation film festivals.

House Rattler (鬼とやなり)          

SOEJIMA Shinobu / 6min / 2019 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

House Rattler is a puppet animation about the mysterious phenomenon of "Ienari," in which a house starts ringing for no reason. An old man who is left behind by modern society meets a creature from folklore.

V=(4/3) πr^3          

LU Ruiqi / 19min / 2020 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

Lu tried to create a film where feelings and pictorial logic overrides the logic of narrative. By using a string of globular images and making them echo, the film exudes a sense of the tactual, of melting and fluidity.

What is Happiness?: Time with my Grandparents (幸せについて、祖父母との時間)          

MURAKAMI Sara / 9min / 2020 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

Murakami’s film poises the lifelong question of the meaning of happiness to her grandparents and records their response. While her premise is simple, it also probes the relation between the camera and the self. The dividing line between the public and private begins to blur: is she truly filming to let the viewers indulge in her grandparent’s wisdom, or is the camera a way for her to broach these questions on her behalf? 

hi ka ri  (hikari)       

WATANABE Hana / 9min / 2019 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

Based in Tokyo, WATANABE Hana is a filmmaker and visual artist who uses videos, photographs, graphics, and language, to express herself, using the motif of everyday scenery, and memory in a particular place. hi ka ri is emblematic of her ethos, using chaotic scenery and noise to give a sense of alienation to everyday life where, in the midst of being swallowed by the everyday, she carves out a space to express her true self. 

We Love Cycling (私たちはチャリ乗るのが大好き)          

YANG Pulaixin / 13min / 2020 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

Four bicycles intervene in the unique Japanese public space of residential life known as “団地”(Danchi) where the field of vision where all objects are equalized from above forms an interlocking geometry. Generally depicted is a massive activity sphere that is restrained from the moment words and actions come out. This experimental short film may make the viewers rethink the images scattered in daily life.

Touching (触れ合い)         

YE Ziyi / 4min / 2019 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

Ye’s Audio-visual interactive live performance and installation is inspired by a curiosity of a virtual body experience. It aims at creating a confusion of the objective body and projected body, tactile touch and imagery, “digitized” touching in a virtual environment, and posing the question of the embodiment / "presence" of touching.

Why I am here now (なぜ私は今ここにいる)          

YUAN Shuohan / 15min / 2020 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

Set to playful visual experiments on imagery of the mundane and the everyday, Why I Am Here Now narrates a highly personal exploration of the self by director Yuan Shuohan. As she strides over cultural, geographic, and temporal bridges, namely from Japan and to her home in China, Yuan creates a visually unsettling yet increasingly intimate atmosphere through a candid, sincere exploration into her private world that both compares and contrasts the border crossing of her parents and range of experiences that has affected her own psyche. 

Tokkan Kozo (突貫小僧)          

OZU Yasujiro / 22min / 1929 / Streaming available from Mar 1-13, 2021

With live-recording of piano accompaniment provided by Mie Yanashita, recorded at Toy Film Museum, Kyoto, on February 22, 2021. The longest extant version of cine auteur par excellence Yasujiro Ozu features a rambunctious child actor that steals the show. A rewarding watch for its comedic pleasures as well as for the opportunity it presents to recognize that no film is ever lost, just missing.


Online March 1st - 13th (Japan Time)

         Some titles are available only for part of the two-week duration:

         March 1st-7th: Aa Manmo Kaitakudan

                                 My Little Goat

         March 7th-13th: OFF HIGHWAY 20

                                  Above the Clouds

                                  Hanamonogatari Babylon                                     

How to Access the Films

         The films are only available to registered symposium attendees.

         Upon registering for the symposium, you will receive an auto-reply email containing the passwords for all the titles except Kuzoku’s films. Researchers and graduate students will receive a separate email with the password for the Kuzoku films.

         Stream the films on Vimeo and other platforms that are hyperlinked from the film list above. You will be required to type in the passwords to start the films.

About Us

Programmed by the Nagoya University Eizogaku Collective (NUEC)

         The NUEC is an ad hoc collective formed by seven Nagoya University graduate students and associate professor Ogawa Shota. Although we all study cinema in Japan, our members see the concept of “Japanese cinema” very differently. “Approaching Japanese Cinema through Independent Filmmaking in Asia” thus explores how curation serves to stitch together these disparate meanings of “Japanese cinema” and suggest a range of possibilities inherent in the concept through acclaimed, overlooked, and independent films of all genres.

Members (in alphabetical order):

         Christopher CABRERA; FAN Yihan; LUO Xiaoyi; MA Yikan;

         MAO Huiying; OGAWA Shota; WEN Hao; ZHANG Yu