An excerpt from the booklet essay by Jason Wood

With a career spanning five decades, Kazuo Hara is widely recognised as one of Japan’s most important and influential documentary filmmakers. Hara’s notoriously confrontational method is considered at odds with the more orthodox approach to the format traditionally adhered to in Japan. When Japanese documentaries do stray from the beaten path, they are apt to wander quite far. The best and most interesting of these films seem to abandon many basic rules of filmmaking altogether – incessantly jump-cutting from shot to shot (The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On), cutting shots extremely long (most of Shinsuke Ogawa’s work), constructing films of epic length (Noriaki Tsuchimoto’s Minamata Disease: A Trilogy/Minamata: Kanja-san to sono sekai, 1971), or incorporating a ragbag of experimental tricks, like Toshio Matsumoto’s Security Treaty (Anpo Joyaku, 1959).

Hara helped transform the art of documentary filmmaking, a bold statement lent credence by the fact that both Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 and The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On appeared in the BFI’s poll of The 50 Greatest Documentaries of All Time. Hara’s exposure of often painfully intimate moments is one of the defining features of his work, an approach that can be traced forward to contemporary documentarians such as Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012) and Rithy Panh’s The Missing Picture (L’Image manquante, 2013), works that like Hara’s The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On also revisit painful moments in a nation’s history to uncover in purely human terms the cost of buried atrocities.

Hara views the role of the camera in documentary as an agent to accelerate action and to help bring it to a boiling point. Eschewing the notion of observational documentary verité, Hara uses documentary to actively participate in the story he is trying to tell, frequently employing pre-planned tactics unknown by his quarry to provoke a reaction and attain ‘truth’. This is what Nick Broomfield refers to in his work as ‘setting elephant traps’. For some this raises questions about ‘staging’ in documentary for the purpose of achieving an intended result, reinvigorating a debate that stretches back to Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922). Hara’s approach is confrontational, both for the subjects of the films and also for the viewer, who is frequently forcefully removed from any comfort zone.


Jason Wood's complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the release.

Disc Info

Japan, 1987
(Blu-ray/24fps): 121 mins
(DVD/25fps): 115 mins
Special features: 67 minutes
Sound: 2.0 Mono LPCM (48k/16-bit)
Original aspect ratio: 1.55:1
Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English

Blu-ray: BD50 / 1080 / 24fps / Region ABC (Region Free)
DVD: PAL / DVD9 / 25fps / Region 0 (Region Free)

DVD £12.99 / Blu-Ray: £19.99
Release Date: 11 Nov 2019


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