At NAB Show 2012, I had the pleasure to meet Newsight Japan‘s President & CEO Kiyoto Kanda. I was at Sony’s NAB Show booth checking out Sony’s latest prototype not-for-sale Glasses-Free 3D TV to see for myself the pros and cons. And then Kiyoto came up and we started talking. Kiyoto mentioned that his company is also working on Glasses-Free 3D TV. While I have not seen what Newsight Japan‘s Glasses-Free 3D TV actually look like (and the look and image quality is one of the most important thing), Kiyoto seems to be quite knowledgable and I like his talking of applying a Glasses-Free 3D filter on top of a traditional LCD/LED set and partnering with Chinese TV manufacturers. Here is my video interview with Kiyoto at NAB Show 2012.
A highly recommended Guardian story with short video documentary about the 200 years old Yagisawa Shoten , “Soy sauce company symbolises Japan’s determination after the tsunami – Michihiro Kono has taken over a company destroyed by the disaster, and is determined to reopen its doors”
“In less tumultuous times, Michihiro Kono could have expected a seamless transition as the new head of the soy sauce company he took over from his father at the start of the month. But in post-tsunami Japan, Kono is the president of a company that, by any conventional measure, no longer exists. Read the rest of this entry »
Here are the HKIFF Jury’s comment:
Peace is a quiet film with an unusual power to move. By following the ordinary lives of people and cats, the camera leads the audience to discover the concept of peace in its most fundamental sense, not as a state of negotiated, reluctant coexistence, but as an idea that lies at the core of our humanity. The film reveals the sublime through the mundane.
I was touched by what Soda wrote on Facebook,
“What I said at the Award Ceremony: I’m from Japan. I’ve been so overwhelmed by the tragedy my country is experiencing that I almost cancelled the trip to Hong Kong. But I’m a filmmaker. It’s my job to make movies and to show them to people. So I changed my mind to come here. I’m now confident that I made a right decision. I’ll continue to make movies.“
Here is a film trailer
Personal note: Since watching Soda’s films for the first time and interviewing him over the years for a few times, Soda has been a true inspiring documentary filmmaker for me. I try to find my own path in documentary filmmaking and it is nice to be inspired by filmmakers like Soda.
A Japanese documentarian friend recommend checking out the insightful and timely documentary “Nuclear Ginza” (with English subtitles) by Channel 4, Great Britain, 1995. [HT Soda]
The 5th & 6th interviews – Nuclear engineer father explains Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accidents to daughterWednesday, 16 March, 2011
March 16th, 2011 Update: The 6th interview
Have a listen to the 5th daily interview (with transcript) of nuclear engineer Mark Mervine by Evelyn Mervine about Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accidents. Here is an excerpt from the transcript (emphasis added),
“Q: Thank you, Dad. Moving on to another question. I do like this question. “So
imagine if your dad were to interview the top TEPCO officials, or could be a reporter
at a TEPCO press conference. What would his top ten questions be? Or put it
another way, what significant data would most clarify the reactors and the extent of
A: I would- well, first off, I would have more than 10 questions. But I think the
important thing that I would ask to receive is that they need to assume that
the general public is intelligent and they need to provide them with as much
information as possible. I think there’s, at times, a tendency when things happen,
whether it be nuclear or some other event, to filter the information, because we’re
afraid of the reaction, or we’re afraid of panic. But in this case, they’re at the
opposite end of the spectrum, where they’re providing not enough information, and
very little information, that people are starting to get very upset and panic, because
they feel like they’re not being provided with enough information. And I would
agree with those people – not enough information is being provided and y’know,
I would need more than- I’d need more than 10 questions for them, but the main
question I would have would be, “Please tell us exactly what is happening and treat
us as if we’re intelligent and give us as much information as possible.”“
For links and some info of the first four daily interviews, see “Nuclear engineer father explains Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accidents to daughter“.
I found an insightful report from Cristine Russell, The Atlantic”What the Media Doesn’t Get About Meltdowns“. Cristine is a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Here is an excerpt,
“Of immediate concern is the prospect of a so-called “meltdown” at one or more of the Japanese reactors. But part of the problem in understanding the potential dangers is continued indiscriminate use, by experts and the media, of this inherently frightening term without explanation or perspective. There are varying degrees of melting or meltdown of the nuclear fuel rods in a given reactor; but there are also multiple safety systems, or containment barriers, in a given plant’s design that are intended to keep radioactive materials from escaping into the general environment in the event of a partial or complete meltdown of the reactor core. Finally, there are the steps taken by a plant’s operators to try to bring the nuclear emergency under control before these containment barriers are breached. Read the rest of this entry »
I turned the NYT Satellite Photos of Japan, Before and After the Quake and Tsunami (from GeoEye) into a screen captured moving images. Very sad.
I am deeply and terribly saddened and my heart is with the people of Japan.
* Wikipedia, “2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami”
* BBC News, “Quake was big even for Japan“
P.P.S. While it is probably completely illogical for me to think like this but I can’t help it. I am a bit worry of friends and loved ones living in the greater Vancouver area because earthquake isn’t predictable.
Since last year, I’ve grown to enjoy and admire Kazuhiro Soda’s observational documentaries very much (love Campaign & Mental). In the summer of 2009, DMZ Korean International Documentary Festival in the border city of Paju, South Korea, commissioned Soda to make a 20 minute-short documentary about peace and coexistence which has now grown into a full length documentary.
Background and serendipity of PEACE
Soda originally wasn’t too keen on the idea of making a film on a board topic like “peace and coexistence“. But while shooting footage of his father-in-law and mother-in-law because Soda has always been interested in their work (respectively running an affordable taxi service for the elderly and disabled, and running an non-profit organization that sends home helpers to houses of the elderly and the disabled), Soda got the idea of making the feature-length documentary PEACE. Soda’s observational documentary style was key because he prohibited himself from doing any research or meeting prior to shooting to avoid having preconceptions.
Film synopsis (emphasis added)
“What is peace? What is coexistence? And what are the bases for them?
PEACE is a visual-essay-like observational documentary, which contemplates these questions by observing the daily lives of people and cats in Okayama city, Japan, where life and death, acceptance and rejection are intermingled.
Three people and stray cats are the main characters.
Toshio Kashiwagi runs an affordable taxi service for the disabled and the elderly, having retired as a principal at a special school. Meanwhile, he feeds a group of stray cats everyday. However, there is a growing tension in the cats’ peaceful community because a male “thief cat,” an outsider, is trying to invade it.
Toshio’s wife, Hiroko Kashiwagi, runs a non-profit organization, which sends home helpers to houses of the elderly and the disabled. But, her organization is facing financial difficulties because of budget cuts from the government. At home, she has been grumbling about the way Toshio feeds his cats.
As a professional caregiver herself, Hiroko regularly visits 91-year-old Shiro Hashimoto to help his daily routines. Living in a mice and tick infected small apartment, Hashimoto is spending his final days thinking about his own death. His memories of being drafted to World War II come back to him while dealing with Hiroko.“
Film review + interview with director Kazuhiro Soda
Peace and coexistence are big and abstract ideas that are difficult to turn into a documentary without being too semental and corny. I think Soda’s observational documentary style worked well in dealing with the theme without making it a hard sell. The audience was able to experience the theme through the daily lives of three main characters and a group of revolving stray cats that Toshio feeds.
To my surprise, I found out during my interview with Soda that Toshio and Hiroko are actually Soda’s father-in-law and mother-in-law! Both Toshio and Hiroko were totally natural and engaging on screen. Soda “kinda forgot that they are the in-laws”, and in turn, the in-laws forgot that he is their son-in-law for the most part. [note: By the way, Toshio and Hiroko also played an important role in connecting Soda with Dr. Yamamoto, the doctor in Mental.]
Through the eyes of Toshio and Hiroko, we got to also see how the elderly and disabled in Japan are being treated and the challenges they face.
The stray cats
Toshio’s stray cats kind of started this film as Soda has always been interested in Toshio’s feeding of the stray cats. And as the serendipity of documentary making will have it, Soda noticed the new cat (the “thief cat”) had conflicts with the existing cats. Read the rest of this entry »
Sadly Lexus is the first.
The subject matter of mental health is never one easy to handle and handle well. Director Kazuhiro Soda’s documentary Mental was not only engaging and insightful, it is also a personal film for Soda to make.
[HT to Mad Dog]
The following time codes and descriptions will give you a quick way to revisit a topic that you want to see again.
Time Codes for Part 1
0:00 Did Soda expect “Mental” to be an award-winning film and be so successful in Japan when he finished the film?
1:28 Why is the film a personal film for Soda and him sharing his personal experience with mental illness.
2:25 People suffering from mental illness in Japan and in the modern world.
4:05 The process of getting permission to shoot in the clinic. And the patients’ reactions.
5:14 Feeling very responsible for the people’s images and futures.
5:40 Talking about the sensitive story in the documentary about a lady and her baby. Soda’s thinking process and considerations.
Time Codes for Part 2
0:00 Depicting the whole story in its fuller complexity and not in an isolated manner.
1:26 An update of the patient.
1:35 Talking about how did Soda get the permission to make the film from the doctor and the clinic? And Soda’s style of making an observational documentary.
4:00 Talking about Dr. Yamamoto. Other psychiatrists’ comments after watching the film.
4:52 Is shooting a film like “Mental” possible in North America?
7:05 Soda’s experience in writing and publishing his book “Mental Illness and Mosaic” including in-depth interview with Dr. Yamamoto and panel discussions with patients appearing in the film and them watching it.
8:50 I really think Soda has done a great service to the mental health profession and patient communities in Japan and probably around the world where they have chance to watch the film.
You can also read Soda’s blog in Japanese and sometimes English here.
Filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda’s observational documentary Campaign is a fascinating film about one candidate’s campaign in the strange world of Japanese election. In the following Skype video interview, Soda and I chatted about Campaign, the Peabody-award winning film I love, and his latest project temporary entitled Theatre.
By the way, you can watch the full documentary Campaign online at PBS POV. Highly recommended.
[HT to Mad Dog for introducing me to Soda’s film]
The following time codes and descriptions will give you a quick way to revisit a topic that interests you the most.
Time Codes for Part 1:
0:00 Soda’s Peabody award experience and of being told on April 1st
0:53 How did Soda convince “Yama-san” and the LDP party to let him shoot the film?
2:05 Why Soda knows the film is going to be interesting before he shoots? The traditional political party of LDP vs the liberal and Bohemian “Yama-san” (this is a great story, you need to hear where Yama-san went to for honey-moon)
3:45 More about the conflicts b/n LDP and Yama-san
4:39 What makes this story interesting
5:05 Soda’s advice to new filmmaker to film an election?
6:13 Soda’s idea of an observational film and how to make an interesting documentary.
Time Codes for Part 2:
0:00 How many hours of footage did Soda shoot for his films (Campaign, Mental, and Theater)?
1:10 An update on “Yama-san”
2:38 Talking about Soda’s editing process.
3:55 Does Soda write a script when he is editing?
5:38 Soda’s process of creating/finding logic & POV.
7:10 What does Soda focus on when he shoot?
Time Codes for Part 3:
0:00 What happens in the editing room
0:37 When to start and stop recording/shooting? For example, when shooting Campaign, Mental, and Theater.
3:34 What kind of equipment Soda used to shoot? Shot three films with Sony HDV Z1.
5:15 What is Soda’s advices to people who want to make a documentary? (very insightful)
Apr 29 update: Here is a photo of Soda when he first met Yama-san at Tokyo University. Soda was only 18 years old.
From CBC News,
Preliminary results of Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Japan show the ruling conservative party has suffered a crushing defeat to the left-of-centre opposition.
Projections indicate the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will soundly defeat the Liberal Democrats, who have been in power for most of the last 54 years.
From Reuters, “Japan votes in election, opposition tipped to win“