Director and screenplay: Sōda Kazuhiro
Production: Kashiwagi Kiyoko, Sōda Kazuhiro
Running Time: 145 minutes
Release Date: 2015
In the port of Ushimado in the Okayama Prefecture, the rapid decline of the population is a problem for the industries in the area. Especially for those of the breeding and opening of oysters, some of these small family-owned companies have already begun for some time to employ foreign work, mostly Chinese. One of these companies, the Hirano, is preparing to welcome two workers from China for the first time.
Arriving at his “observational-style documentary” number six, Sōda Kazuhiro with this work confirms not only one of the most interesting Japanese non-fiction authors to follow, but also a director who sets himself on the same level of quality as his colleagues in rest of the world. The international breath – such as aesthetics and filmmaking – certainly not as a theme that has always been linked to Japan as the most peripheral one – is also due to the fact that Sōda has been living in New York for many years, where he moved on behalf of the NHH.
The Chinese workers and the relationship with a small sea community, the family of one of the protagonists who moved to Okayama from Miyagi, an area affected by the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, not least the aging of the population, factor Inevitable and with which the Japanese will have to, are already doing it in reality, make more and more counts in the coming years. It is made that in their materiality, in their practical implications, they transmit us far more than any given theoretical or political position. In this situation, there is certainly the choice and the assembly, so it is never something totally objective: Sda lets the spectator get an idea and an opinion on what is proposed to him. In following and telling seemingly minor and peripheral stories, the director is very good at capturing and showing how the lines of breakage, the cracks that anticipate and point to changes already underway, lines that cut this small community of Okayama, and sin Of all of Japan’s contemporary and western countries in general.
An important part, even quantitatively, of the film is carried out by the coastal landscapes, marinas and harbors that Sōda often places. Indeed, inserting is not the exact term because these images form the true fabric of the work, giving it its tone, creating a space on which the other events will then take place. If I’m not mistaken it should be the first job where Sona confronts with landscapes and wide views, the sea, the harbor, and the fishing. In most of his earlier works, the environment was narrow or well-located: the theater and the rehearsal room for what is perhaps his best work with this, Theater 1 and 2; The streets and alleys of a neighborhood in Peace and so on. And then there are the cats, who return to almost all the works of Sona, the cats that help to take an eccentric point of view and explore the surrounding environment. The themes that are just touched and that appear in watermark slowly during the film’s lifetime emerge from the fabric of everyday life as by chance, a joke here, an exchange between the director and a worker there.
After about an hour, a technician who deals with temporary prefabricated homes for Chinese workers who will be on the spot for only about 6-7 months in a very casual conversation with Soda says without being stimulated by the director himself: “The Chinese They are different, they lack the common sense that the Japanese have, they steal and take away everything they can. Do not you know that they are bad? Only when you understand this you will be able to work with them. ” Words are spoken without apparent wickedness, if we also want the air of someone who tries to understand and not hate, almost as a matter of fact, a kind of discourse circulating among the majority of Japanese public opinion. Strong words, but they must be read in their complexity, tell us more about the inadequacy of a society, or part of it, to accept the difference, the foreigner, the inadequacy of capitalist society to function no less, because if it is true As explicitly stated by one of the protagonists of the film that Japanese young people do not want to do these jobs, it is also true (it is not said directly in the film) that foreign workers are also chosen because they are willing to work longer and for lesser compensation.
One of the most intense parts of the documentary and somehow its culmination is the arrival of two Chinese workers in the Hirano company. Especially the waiting, the preparation of their prefabricated and the welcome by the Japanese working in the establishment, the more cordial and open to that of middle-aged women and children, the colder and more stereotypical one that the elderly master of the ‘ Breeding and factory, which continues to call them “China Men”.
A long scene shows us the first day of the two on the boat with all the difficulties of these Chinese guys who do not speak Japanese and are lost in an environment, the sea and the sea work, which clearly do not know. The documentary concludes with these long takes, with dead times and strange faces of the two young people, lost in an ambiguous environment and language for them.
As stated above, Oyster Factory is one of Soda’s best works, for real film – the one hundred and forty-five minutes of its life are very well-timed and light but overwhelmingly meaningful – as for the approach that Focuses on a country far from any center, both geographic and media attention. Laying his eyes on the periphery of the generalist vision and letting himself be guided by personal images and stories, Sada succeeds in bringing cultural nodes and problems that are very wide-ranging and symptomatic to almost anthropological changes affecting the so-called first-country countries.