Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
DOC NYC ’14: Kasamayaki
and Shigeko Kokubo are a lot like the Shinoharas in Cutie and the Boxer, except they gave up their ambitions of
conquering the American art world and returned to Japan. When they did, somehow
they left their twelve year old daughter Yuki behind. If you are wondering how
that worked, their grown filmmaker daughter will ask them directly when she
documents her post 3/11 return to Japan in Kasamayaki
which screens during this year’s DOC NYC.
stone’s throw from Fukushima, Kasama is a traditional rural artist colony,
particularly known for its kasama-yaki style of pottery. At its finest, it
approaches the sort of elegant and deceptively simple work the Ippodo Gallery
often showcases. In recent years, the Kokubos largely support themselves through
their pottery, but Katsuji had dreamed of making it as a painter.
what arrangements they made for their daughter when they slunk out of New York
are never really explained. There is some vague talk about not wanting to take
her out of school, but her mother clearly does not want to discuss it—and her
father is just as obviously the junior partner when it comes to family
Kasamayaki is a somewhat odd film,
because it is outwardly quite placid and meditative, but there is a lot of
emotional turmoil brewing below the surface. At times, the very act of
filmmaking appears to be a deliberate strategy to keep Kokubo’s parents at arm’s
length. However, those eager for some heartwarming Hallmark moments will at
least get a bit of paternal rapprochement. There are also cats and dogs lazing
all around the Kokubos’ converted farmhouse, which is always a plus for that
Kasamayaki is much more about
intimate family drama than documenting the realities of post-earthquake
Fukushima, but there are a few telling time capsule moments, as when Kokubo’s
father checks out one of the Geiger counters provided by the local government.
Yet, despite it all, Kasama still looks like a lovely place to visit when seen
through her lens.
small in scope, it is strangely absorbing, following in the tradition of
intensely personal Japanese documentaries, represented by films like Mami
Sunada’s Death of a Japanese Salesman and
Yang Yonghi’s Dear Pyongyang.
Recommended for those who appreciate Japanese pottery and the vérité aesthetic,
Kasamyaki screens tomorrow (11/16) as
part of DOC NYC 2014.
Labels: DOC NYC '14, Documentary