Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2023 1:15 pm 
Site Admin

Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2003 1:50 pm
Posts: 4756
Location: California/NYC


Connecting with a vanishing people changes a teenage boy's life

A misfit Tokyo junior high student developing a bond with the local nomads when he visits his father's mountain home is the opportunity to show indigenous values being undermined in 1965 Japan in this quiet drama from Ryohei Sasatani. The youth connects with the scruffy trio he encounters because he feels like a reject himself. He has arrived with a big bruise on his cheek, a chip on his shoulder, and a pain in his heart. He has been out of tune with the world he is in. But that will change.

Fifteen-year-old Norio (Rairu Sugita) is supposed to be studying for his high school entrance exam. But he is angry and unmotivated. Meeting three Sanka, a vanishing tribe of Japanese nomads, first teenage Hana (Naru Komukai), then her father Shozo (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) and her blind grandmother, is a godsend for Norio. When Hana asks Norio what junior high is like he says "Hell." At first she's standoffish toward him, but they get big opportunities to bond. Unsteady in the rough mountain terrain, he falls and hurts himself and she rescues him. Later, she is stung by a bee and collapses with a server allergic reaction. He drags her to a medical station just in time to save her life.

It's obvious Norio likes the beauty and quiet of the mountains. It's a challenge Hana helps him meet, especially when they go on a coming-of-age climb together. Then when it turns out the forest is to be cleared to build a golf course, and Norio's father is involved, the rift between father and son deepens. When Norio says building the golf course here is wrong, his father grants this is true, but there was a war and they must rebuild.

Everything we know of Japan's deep contradictions is quietly limned with intense conviction in this quiet film. Here is a culture with deep aesthetic and moral bonds with the natural environment, where nature and traditional houses' harmony with it are uniquely beautiful and appreciated. Yet this is a nation that is one of the mnost intensely urban and industrial of the EAst. This heartfelt little film, which has been compared to Jissoji Akio's 1972 Poem, focuses on a transitional moment between worlds.

The grandmother curls over and quietly dies and, following Sanka tradition, Shozo immediately buries her under the black earth with Norio and Hana as witnesses. Time passes. Norio's relationship with his father deteriorates but still remains, while Norio grows closer to Shzo and Hana. We know Norio's leaving his world and joining the Sanka is only a dream. But this summer and his experience with his new friends will have transformed him and given him a lasting sense of purpose. A great film for kids about nature and indigenous people.

Sanka; Nomads of the Mountains 山歌, 77 mins., debued Osaka Mar. 2022, also Helsinki May 2022. Screened for this review as part of Japan Cuts, NYC, Jul. 26-Aug. 6, 2023, where it was shown Sunday, July 30, 2023 at 12:00 pm.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Forum locked This topic is locked, you cannot edit posts or make further replies.  [ 1 post ] 

All times are UTC - 8 hours

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 26 guests

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group