Face to Face: 1970s Social Movements and Documentaries / Director Kazuo Hara

published: 2016-09-20 Japanese:日本語版へ

Goodbye CP[Sayonara CP]© Shissoh Productions, Inc.

In the first half of the 1970s, independent screenings of documentary films that sharply critique society were held all over Japan, spurring various encounters and confrontations and cultivating new activist movements. On April 29th, 2016, "Thinking with Kazuo Hara: Focus of life in the 1970s – Disability / [Women's] lib / Okinawa ~ Talk and screening of early documentaries," jointly organized by the executive committee and the Research Center for Ars Vivendi, was held at the Suzaku Campus of Ritsumeikan University with over 200 attendees.

Two documentaries directed by Kazuo Hara were screened: Goodbye CP [Sayonara CP], released in 1972, and Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, released in 1974.In Goodbye CP, Hara's first film, his camera encounters "Aoi Shiba no Kai [Green Grass Association]," a group formed by people with cerebral palsy who take their disabled bodies into the streets to call out discrimination. It is a historic work that made the independent living movement more widely known. In Extreme Private Eros, his second film, Hara follows his former lover, a "women's lib" activist, and together with his current lover heads to Okinawa before and after its reversion to Japanese administration.

From Goodbye to Extremely Private. The former is a film known to anyone involved in the disabled people's movement. The latter film, with a main subject, Miyuki Takeda, who stood at the forefront of the women's lib movement, also became a legendary work in the history of women's activism, but these two works have rarely been discussed together. The topics of both films were connected, however, and the people engaged in activism also intersected, causing conflict and controversy, and, while bringing the director himself in for criticism, inspiring a new, vigorous activism on the part of the people in question themselves. It was an era in which people in wheelchairs or pushchairs faced social barriers even when it came to riding the bus. Sometimes people with disabilities and women's activists fought together, but regarding the Eugenic Protection Law they were on opposing sides. This is also connected to issues concerning military bases and prostitution, the issues facing Okinawa after its "reversion to Japanese administration," and other movements and everyday practices. Today, however, social movements are divided by themes or topics, and academic research into them has also been subdivided. Even when there are excellent writings or practical approaches, rarely do they bring in people from other areas and have an impact on society.

Director Hara Kazuo speaks about when the film was shot (Photograph left = Ritsumeikan University Suzaku Campus)

So why were these two films able to have such an impact in the early 1970s? At the time they were shot, neither "Aoi Shiba" nor Mayuki Takeda, nor indeed the movements they represented, were well known. This event was organized out of a desire to reexamine the chaotic surge these movements experienced by screening both of these films at once.

At the talk after the screenings Shinya Tateiwa, Murakami Kiyoshi (regarding women's lib), and Mitsuaki Ono (regarding opposition to military bases on Okinawa) spoke to the director. Of particular interest were questions aimed at what was not captured by the camera.

The Japan Independent Living Center's Hiroko Koizumi, who has a linguistic disability as a result of cerebral palsy, posed the following question to the director and the room.

"In Goodbye CP, the world seems to say, "We wouldn't want to be like that." This was the message I received. There weren't any women among the main members of the "Aoi Shiba no Kai," and there were even things said in the movie that seemed contemptuous of women. Someone like me with cerebral palsy was a "disabled person." Not a "human being" or a "woman." Like yearning to be a healthy person, I also yearned to be a "woman." But that was the image of a woman as a being protected by men and society. The two films are connected in the sense of opposing a society that considers "disabled people" and "women" as weak and objects of protection. I would like to ask the following. Do all of you see the people with cerebral palsy in the "Aoi Shiba no Kai" as individual people just like you? And do you see me as a woman?"

Some of the people who appear in Goodbye CP have linguistic disabilities that make it difficult to hear what they are saying, but when it was first released it was screened without subtitles. Hara said he had thought, "They won't understand this easily!" He also said, "I'd decided there was no way I was going to make a movie that followed along beside a social movement." He exposed the conflict between the filmmaker and the filmed, and was self-aware of the violence present in the former. This is perhaps one reason Hara's films became ignition points for activism. Not only for documentary filmmakers but also for academics and those who write broadly, how thoroughly they question and reexamine themselves and their power relationship with the object of their discourse is the key to creating crossover debates and new surges in society.


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