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Forest of Pressure: Ogawa Shinsuke and Postwar Japanese Documentary

Abé Mark Nornes
Volume: 18
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Forest of Pressure
    Book Description:

    A critical biography of filmmaking collective Ogawa Pro, Forest of Pressure explores the emergence of socially committed documentary filmmaking in postwar Japan. Benefiting from unprecedented access to the collective's archives and interviews with former members, and analyzing Ogawa Pro's films and works by other Japanese filmmakers, Abé Mark Nornes addresses key issues in documentary theory and practice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9894-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxvi)

    This book is about one of the most astonishing filmographies in Japanese cinema, the work of Ogawa Shinsuke. To be more specific, if somewhat obscure, this is a critical biography of his collective, Ogawa Productions (or Ogawa Pro, as it is known in Japan). The book takes its title,Forest of Pressure, from a mistranslation of one of the collective’s film titles from 1967. The original Japanese title literally means “the forest that crushes one to death” and was initially rendered in English asThe Oppressed Students. This language exemplifies the breathless, over-the-top rhetoric of the day, but the image...

  5. 1 Ogawa as Postwar Documentarist
    (pp. 1-35)

    With this chapter, I begin by sketching out the history of the Japanese documentary form from the end of World War II to the point at which Ogawa Shinsuke started making films. The student of Euro-American film will find many interesting points of synchronicity, convergence, and divergence within this story. With little or no exposure to foreign documentaries, the film culture the youthful Ogawa grew up in centered upon educational films (kyoiku eiga). This undoubtedly shaped Ogawa’s understanding of documentary. It was the filmmaking that he absorbed first as a spectator, then learned formally in an institutional setting, and then...

  6. 2 Jieiso: Ogawa′s First Collectivity
    (pp. 36-53)

    The twelve-month period from mid-1964 to the summer of 1965 marked a shift in the meaning of independent documentary in Japan. This was the period that JCP forces led by Yoshimi Yasushi successfully wrestled power from the Noda-Matsumoto Group within the Association of Documentary Filmmakers, and disaffected filmmakers fled to form the Image Arts Society. Its core leadership included Kuroki Kazuo, Matsumoto Toshio, Nagano Chiaki, Noda Shinkichi, Matsukawa Yasuo, and Tsuchimoto Noriaki. Another group (Film Independent) devoted to independent and experimental cinema formed; it included people like Adachi Masao, Donald Richie, Iimura Takahiko, Obayashi Nobuhiko, among others. In this same...

  7. 3 The Sanrizuka Series
    (pp. 54-127)

    When Ogawa Pro was formed in early 1968, it was relatively unusual to name a documentary production company after oneself. Tsuchimoto asked Ogawa why he chose this name, and Ogawa replied that it signified his intent to take ultimate responsibility for the films they made. “Hmm,” thought Tsuchimoto, “I guess that’s one way of looking at it.” Ogawa’s cameraman, Otsu Koshiro, thought it was improper to attach the name of an individual to social movement films like this, and he jumped over to Tsuchimoto’s group. These anecdotes hint at the complexity of authorship in this collective mode of filmmaking.


  8. 4 Segue: From ″Sanrizuka Ogawa Pro″ to ″Documentary Cinema Ogawa Pro″
    (pp. 128-177)

    In the introduction, I wrote about the Groping in the Dark symposium at the 1997 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival. This panel of directors was moderated by critic Yamane Sadao, who laid out a periodization of the postwar documentary borrowed from Ogawa Pro’s Fukuda Katsuhiko. From the vantage point of the present, the assembled filmmakers agreed that something happened to the documentary in the mid-1970s. The passion and social commitment of the 1960s cinema seemed to give way to a new kind of documentary centered on the self. Significantly, this turning point from one epoch to another coincides with the...

  9. 5 The Magino Village Story
    (pp. 178-220)

    Dokkoi! Songs from the BottomandSanrizukaThe Skies of May, the Road to the Villagewere major accomplishments, and the former was particularly well received. They would appear to have successfully launched a new organizational structure for Ogawa Pro, with the new home base in Magino, a Tokyo office, and flexible units that could go anywhere to film new documentaries. However, this activity swiftly ground to a halt in 1976, as the collective entered a period of transition characterized by inaction, even stagnation. Within a couple years of the move to Yamagata, most of the staff from the Sanrizuka...

  10. 6 After Ogawa
    (pp. 221-266)

    WhenThe Sundial Carved with a Thousand Years of Notcheswas being distributed, Ogawa and Iizuka started thinking about moving the collective out of Magino and at the same time allowing Iizuka to start directing on his own. He and another member, Abe Hiroko, went to a village in southern Yamagata called Tamanoi and began working with the local people and generally researching the area. Based on this investigation, Iizuka produced a script he wished to direct. Over several sessions of “open discussions” with the entire collective, which was now down to five or six members, Ogawa harshly criticized this...

  11. Postscript
    (pp. 267-278)

    At the close of the century, two filmmakers undertook films about Ogawa Pro. They came from very different parts of the world, from very different perspectives, and they entertained very different relationships to Ogawa Shinsuke. One is American experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, and the other is Chinese feature film director Peng Xiao-lian.

    Hammer came late to Ogawa Pro. As a guest to the YIDFF in the 1990s, she encountered the films of Ogawa Pro and met Shiraishi Yoko—former member and Ogawa’s wife. She was taken by the passion of the films, the unusual story behind their production, and by...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 279-288)
  13. Filmography
    (pp. 289-300)
  14. Distribution Resources
    (pp. 301-304)
  15. Index
    (pp. 305-317)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 318-318)