In Japan today,” he said, “viewers get comfortable and say, ‘Oh, wow, that’s great. The overwhelming majority of non-fiction works in Japan nowadays are just ‘cool’ and end with the viewer being comfortable with them. I don’t think they are documentaries, but rather “information variety.
Imad, My Young Son” (Iraq)
The documentary “Predator: The Secret Scandal of J-Pop,” produced by BBC Two and broadcast in the early morning hours of March 8 (Japan time), is attracting attention both at home and abroad.
The film depicts allegations of sexual assault by a major figure in the entertainment industry and the discomfort of Japanese people who refuse to face up to the truth. Some people on the Internet wondered why such a film was not produced in Japan.
Asian Documentaries” is a streaming service that distributes documentaries set in Asian countries. Satoshi Banno, 50, the representative of the service, looks at the current situation in Japan with bitterness.
The following is a question-and-answer session with Mr. Banno.
Documentaries in Japan are mostly broadcast on television. Domestic TV stations are bound by the Broadcasting Law and cannot broadcast unless the content is fair and impartial. However, it is difficult to ensure complete fairness and impartiality in documentaries, since the intentions and arguments of the filmmakers are what come out in the first place. I think the role and appeal of documentaries is to ask the question, “What do you think when you watch this, a social reality that you don’t want to face?
─ Which countries do you think are at the forefront of documentary production?
I think Denmark and France, for example. I think Denmark and France, for example, have mature democracies, and I feel that they produce many excellent works. I think democracy also means that individuals participate in politics. Documentaries are a way for viewers to judge whether or not the current society is the right one. However, the overwhelming majority of documentary channels are American or European. That is why I decided to feature Asian documentaries.
─ Isn’t documentary production active in Asia?
Even within Asia, documentaries made in China and South Korea are being marketed around the world. Chinese filmmakers are experimenting with expression, and they are showing their works both domestically and internationally, even though they are subject to state censorship. On the other hand, there are also “underground documentaries. These documentaries are made in secret so as not to be discovered by the government, and they also refuse to be censored. They present their work at film festivals around the world.
─ You are saying that there are more restrictions on the production side than in the West.
In Asia, where democracy is less entrenched than in the West, making documentaries for other countries is a powerful way to win freedom. Many filmmakers risk their lives. In Vietnam, where the communist party is a one-party dictatorship, if you criticize the regime, you are immediately arrested.
In Japan, there is no censorship or other restrictions, and there are many other ways to present one’s work besides television. Despite this, I feel that Japanese people are making documentaries only to satisfy Japanese people. We need to look at the world and reexamine our own country without being a frog in a well. Without a bird’s-eye view, you cannot see the foci of a country’s problems.
Currently, the Diet is in a state of confusion over the reinterpretation of the Broadcasting Act. What is happening around us and what is being lost? What kind of crisis is coming? The time has come for us to face up to these questions.
The Man Diving the 38th Parallel, South Korea
South Korea “Accomplices”
India’s “Street Corner Stealers”
Lithuania “Gentle Warriors: Lithuania’s Revival of Conscription
All of the films introduced here are now available on Asian Documentaries.
From the March 31 and April 7, 2023 issues of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Shinji Hamasaki (2nd) Asian Documentaries