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Japanese Documentary Film

The Meiji Era through Hiroshima

2003
Author:

Abé Mark Nornes

Japanese Documentary Film

The first English-language examination of this vital cinematic tradition

Among Asian countries—where until recently documentary filmmaking was largely the domain of governments—Japan was exceptional for the vigor of its film industry. And yet, Japanese documentary remains largely unstudied outside of Japan. The first English-language study of the subject, this book provides an enlightening look at the first fifty years of documentary film theory and practice in Japan.

Very deftly Abé Mark Nornes balances historical discourse and contextual analysis. His readings are brilliant. This book breaks new ground in charting the development of Japanese documentaries in the prewar and Occupations eras. This is the first comprehensive study of this subject in English.

Keiko McDonald, University of Pittsburgh

Among Asian countries—where until recently documentary filmmaking was largely the domain of central governments—Japan was exceptional for the vigor of its nonfiction film industry. And yet, for all its aesthetic, historical, and political interest, the Japanese documentary remains little known and largely unstudied outside of Japan. This is the first English-language study of the subject, an enlightening close look at the first fifty years of documentary film theory and practice in Japan.

Beginning with films made by foreigners in the nineteenth century and concluding with the first two films made after Japan’s surrender in 1945, Abé Mark Nornes moves from a “prehistory of the documentary,” through innovations of the proletarian film movement, to the hardening of style and conventions that started with the Manchurian Incident films and continued through the Pacific War. Nornes draws on a wide variety of archival sources—including Japanese studio records, secret police reports, government memos, letters, military tribunal testimonies, and more—to chart shifts in documentary style against developments in the history of modern Japan.


Japanese Documentary Film

Abé Mark Nornes is associate professor at the University of Michigan, where he teaches in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and the Program in Film and Video Studies.

Japanese Documentary Film

Very deftly Abé Mark Nornes balances historical discourse and contextual analysis. His readings are brilliant. This book breaks new ground in charting the development of Japanese documentaries in the prewar and Occupations eras. This is the first comprehensive study of this subject in English.

Keiko McDonald, University of Pittsburgh

This is a welcome and compelling exploration of a long-neglected subject.

Journal of Film and Video

Nornes’s book not only makes a valuable contribution to the study of international documentary film, but also to understanding the ambiguous work of such fiction filmmakers as Mizoguchi, Ozu, and Kurosawa during the war. Japanese Documentary Film is of major importance for Japanese and documentary studies but its significance is not limited to specialists. The issues raised here are important for all of film and cultural studies.

Film Quarterly

Japanese Documentary Film

Contents

Note on Japanese Words and Names
Acknowledgments

Introduction

1 A Prehistory of the Japanese Documentary
2 The Innovation of Prokino
3 A Hardening of Style
4 Stylish Charms: When Hard Style Becomes Hard Reality
5 The Last Stand of Theory
6 Kamei Fumio: Editing under Pressure
7 After Apocalypse: Obliteration of the Nation

Conclusion
Notes

Index