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June 10 – June 23, 2019

Extreme Cinema. The Action Documentaries of Kazuo Hara

“I try to forcibly generate action with the camera. I try to wrench it into existence. With deliberate force.” – Kazuo Hara

Among the most vital, courageous and controversial documentary filmmakers active today, Kazuo Hara (b. 1945) is best known for a series of passionately confrontational films—or “action documentaries” as he terms them—made in close collaboration with a series of extraordinary activists and agitators. From the cerebral palsy victims turned disabled-rights champions in Sayonara CP to the vociferously anti-Imperialist WWII veteran Kenzo Okuzaki in The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On and the outspoken novelist Mitsuharu Inoue in A Dedicated Life, Hara’s fascinating films closely follow firebrand iconoclasts in pursuit of often perilous causes. Rejecting any kind of detached or “objective” position, Hara instead deliberately inserts his camera (and small crew) into the heat of the moment to capture, and sometimes even to instigate, revelatory confrontations that lay bare repressed secrets and unsettling truths. Hara’s films often bring the viewer uncomfortably close to their difficult subjects, generating a discomfort that forces the viewer to question what exactly a documentary can and should represent. The radical intimacy of Hara’s cinema reached a bold climax with Extreme Private Eros, a diaristic portrait of Miyuki Takeda—Hara’s ex-lover and mother to his child—after she leaves Hara in search of a new sexual and political identity. Holding his own raw emotions and investments up for scrutiny, Extreme Private Eros is a milestone in self-critical documentary and a powerful study of the stakes and limits of sexual revolution. With his long-awaited new film, the decade-in-the-making Sennan Asbestos Disaster, Hara adds a new dimension to his action documentary: a slower, more patient mode of cinematic intervention that seeks to understand the collective voice of marginalized victims and the power of a community to challenge the state. – Haden Guest

The Harvard Film Archive is thrilled to welcome Kazuo Hara and his long-time producer Sachiko Kobayashi for a special screening of his latest film as well as his now-classic Extreme Private Eros. We are also extremely proud to premiere new film prints of Sayonara CP and Extreme Private Eros acquired by the HFA for its collection, from Kazuo Hara.

This retrospective is made possible in collaboration with Shisso Production, Inc. in association with Hisami Kuroiwa.

Special thanks: Josh Siegel, Film Curator—Museum of Modern Art, New York; Mary Brinton, Director and Stacie Matsumoto, Associate Director—Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard; and Hiroshi Sunairi.

Photos courtesy Shisso Production, Inc. Film descriptions by Haden Guest.

Monday June 10 at 7pm

The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (Yuki yukite shingun)

Directed by Kazuo Hara
Japan 1987, 16mm, color, 122 min. Japanese with English subtitles

Hara’s best-known film is also his most controversial: a portrait of Kenzo Okuzaki, a radical anti-Imperialist activist and convicted criminal, imprisoned for murdering a real estate agent and for shooting pachinko balls at the Emperor of Japan. Okuzaki’s dark experiences as a veteran of the brutal Japanese occupation of New Guinea inspired him to denounce the Emperor as a war criminal, a stance far from the mainstream of Japanese society at the time and to this day. Hara’s film finds Okuzaki now doggedly hunting down the members of his outfit to uncover the mysterious execution of two of them, days after Japan’s surrender. Aided by Hara, Okuzaki arrives unannounced at the homes of the now-elderly soldiers, ambushing and accosting them with difficult and unrelenting questions about their guilt and awareness of their, and the Japanese nation’s, crimes. Okuzaki’s bold aggression drives Hara’s film dangerously forward, lurching even into paroxysms of violence as the tireless Okuzaki attacks his former commanders and fellow soldiers not just with his sharp questions and accusations but also with his fists. The unspeakable crimes revealed over the course of The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On makes clear the potential of Hara’s camera-as-weapon (or wrecking ball) attitude, as the “actions” staged together with Okuzaki reveal far more than even the zealous agitator had set out to expose.

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Monday June 17 at 7pm

Sayonara CP

Directed by Kazuo Hara
Japan 1972, 16mm, b/w, 82 min. Japanese with English subtitles

Hara’s profoundly moving debut film was inspired by his time teaching at a school for disabled children and his ardent desire, born there, to fight against the rarely acknowledged prejudices that kept the disabled out of collective sight and mind. Towards this cause, Sayonara CP offered a difficult yet life affirming meditation on the actual and imagined boundaries between the abled and disabled, centered upon the arresting figure—and body—of Hiroshi Yokota, a person with cerebral palsy and active leader of the Green Lawn Movement dedicated to bringing new consciousness to the needs of the Japanese disabled community. Shot in high contrast black-and-white, Sayonara CP refuses to varnish or sentimentalize in any way the struggle of Yokota and his group, joining them as they take to the streets, leaving aside their wheelchairs to make their own physical condition patently, and painfully, obvious to passersby unaccustomed to seeing nonnormative bodies amongst them. Weaving together interviews with Yokota and his fellow Green Lawn members with those of parents and family of the impaired, as well as the opinions of non-disabled people, Hara creates a polyphonic and complex portrait of a community newly energized by a sense of difficult but real forward movement. Made at a time when the disabled were considered “unseemly” and most often kept inside—or placed in dedicated institutions—Sayonara CP (which was released independently and screened principally in non-theatrical venues) is credited with helping advance the cause of disabled rights in Japan.

Also screening as part of the Cinema of Resistance program.

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Friday June 21 at 7pm

A Dedicated Life
(Zenshin shosetsuka)

Directed by Kazuo Hara
Japan 1994, DCP, color, 157 min. Japanese with English subtitles

Hara’s rarely screened fourth film is an extended intimate portrait of celebrated and outspoken novelist Mitsuharu Inoue, a project that took a radical new direction when the writer’s recently diagnosed cancer began to spread throughout his body. Responding to the urgent sense of time running out, Hara filmed extended sessions of Inoue’s writing workshops, lectures and visits to the doctor, while also interviewing the many women in the author’s life. Like his early films, A Dedicated Life refuses sentimental hagiography, revealing Inoue’s jealousies, anger and darker side as expressions of the inherent and irresolvable complexity of the portrait film. And like Extreme Private Eros in particular, Hara’s thoughtful film also reveals the contradictory and often self-destructive impulses of love and devotion.

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi in Person

Saturday June 22 at 5pm

Sennan Asbestos Disaster
(Nippon Asbest Village)

Directed by Kazuo Hara
Japan 2017, DCP, color, 215 min. Japanese with English subtitles

Hara’s latest film is a slow-building and devastating epic exposé of the “silent time bomb” of widespread asbestos contamination discovered in the Sennan City area of Osaka in 2005. Made over a full decade working closely with an activist group racing against the clock to trace the devastating roots of the epidemic in the area’s traditional hub of asbestos production and connect with elderly survivors to build their case against the state, Sennan Asbestos Disaster offers a remarkable portrait of a community charged with purpose yet faced with tremendous obstacles. While more ruminative in tone and pace than his earlier action documentaries, Sennan Asbestos Disaster shares the urgency and anger of films such as Sayonara CP and The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On. Indeed, its haunting echoes of the horrific mercury poisoning in Minamata and other toxic calamities that have struck Japan resonate deeply as stark reminders of the lack of state protections for citizens around the world who are exposed to hazardous pollutants.

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Kazuo Hara and Sachiko Kobayashi in Person

Sunday June 23 at 7pm

Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 (Kyokushiteki erosu koiuta 1974)

Directed by Kazuo Hara
Japan 1974, 16mm, b/w, 92 min. Japanese with English subtitles

Even in this era of reality television and docu-fiction, only rarely has a filmmaker turned the camera upon their own private life with such candor and intimacy as Kazuo Hara in the aptly named Extreme Private Eros. While ostensibly focused upon his former love Miyuki Takeda as she comes to terms with her own bisexuality and intense distrust of traditional family structures, Extreme Private Eros also offers a portrait of Hara as a jealous and resentful ex for whom filming serves as a kind of harsh self-therapy. The film was, in fact, made in close collaboration with Takeda, who invited Hara to follow her to Okinawa where she had gone with their child to live with her girlfriend. Takeda also asked Hara to document her giving birth unassisted to another child, the result of her relationship with a black American GI. Adding further emotional complexity to the project, Hara invited his new girlfriend and producer Sachiko Kobayashi to assist in the production—resulting in one of the film’s most indelible scenes, a stinging conversation between the two women about Hara as artist, lover and human being.

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