New York, NY – Leading up to the 7th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan Society's first Monthly Classics screenings of 2018 present two powerful postwar Japanese films that ruminate on the effects of nuclear fallout – one a dramatic recreation of the horrors of Hiroshima's atomic bombing based on the stories of its most innocent victims, the other a sci-fi/horror allegory that spawned a pop culture juggernaut and one of Japan's most recognized exports.
Hideo Sekigawa's Hiroshima (1953), screening, is a harrowing drama that recreates the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima based on surviving children's accounts. Rediscovered after decades of obscurity, the film was recently restored and subtitled, allowing new audiences to experience this crucial paragon of anti-war cinema. This will be the first timeHiroshima is shown in NYC since it was originally distributed in an edited version in 1955.
Before it was drastically re-cut, re-edited and tempered by new scenes for American audiences, Ishiro Honda's original Godzilla (1954), screening A.V. Club noted, "Godzilla, then, is an elegant metaphor for the fear of nuclear annihilation. His bumpy hide is reminiscent of burned, scarred skin, and his head is the shape of a mushroom cloud.", was a markedly darker and more politically potent film that reflected Japan's postwar anxiety and gave emotional resonance to the country's devastation. In his video essay comparing the two cuts, Kristian Williams called the film "one of the boldest political statements ever put to film, masquerading as a creature feature." The
"Made less than a decade after WWII, these two films encompass a cinematic spectrum of how the Japanese psyche was coming to terms with the war's decimating conclusion," says Aiko Masubuchi, Senior Film Programmer at Japan Society. "Today, with the specter of nuclear war looming amidst tensions in East Asia and lingering challenges nearly a decade after the Daiichi power plant meltdown, the threat of man-made radiological catastrophe is ever-present. Our hope is that these two films serve as both cautionary tales and a critical moment to examine the force of artistic expression in the wake of devastation."
As an extension of the Godzilla screening, Japan Society presents a talk on Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, From Godzilla to Kurosawa (Wesleyan, 2017).with Steve Ryfle, noted scholar of Japanese science fiction cinema and author of
'MONTHLY CLASSICS' SCREENING SCHEDULE & DESCRIPTIONS
Monthly Classics admission: $13/$10 seniors & students/$5 Japan Society members. All films shown in Japanese with English subtitles.
1953, 104 min., Blu-ray, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Hideo Sekigawa. With Eiji Okada, Yumeji Tsukioka, Takashi Kanda, Isuzu Yamada.
Based on Children of the Atom Bomb, a book of testimonies by children who experienced the bombing of Hiroshima, Hideo Sekigawa's harrowing drama details the destruction and suffering left in the wake of the A-bomb for a group of students, teachers and their families. A direct indictment against nuclear war and the mistreatment of Hiroshima's stigmatized survivors, this independently produced film was funded by the Japan Teachers Union in an effort to "preserve peace" and utilized tens of thousands of Hiroshima citizens as extras, including many survivors.
After being denied wide distribution due to content that was deemed too "anti-American" at the time, the Union independently distributed the film throughout Japan. Although it screened abroad and received U.S. distribution, however, the film became largely forgotten over time. It was “rediscovered” by producer Ippei Kobayashi, the son of Hiroshima’s assistant director, who sought has led efforts to restore, subtitle and widely distribute the film.
"In a tour-de-force of production design, editing, storytelling and grandiose filmmaking, Sekigawa covers the moment of the bombing into the following days with a heartfelt humanizing of the tragedy." –J-Film PowWow
1954, 96 min., DCP, b&w, in Japanese with English subtitles. Directed by Ishiro Honda. With Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura.
The seminal classic that introduced the world to kaiju eiga and everyone's favorite city-stomping radioactive monster. Directed by Ishiro Honda, Godzilla provided the ultimate allegory for post-war nuclear anxiety through the story of a prehistoric sea creature rampaging through Tokyo after being awakened by underwater H-bomb testing. A domestic box office hit that went on to enrapture international audiences and spawn over two dozen sequels and countless imitations, the original film still retains the power to inspire awe in its evocation of humanity's confrontation with the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation.
Godzilla, Mothra, The Mysterians—Japan’s most celebrated monster movies and sci-fi classics were brought to the screen by filmmaker Ishiro Honda. A long-overlooked talent, Honda is now considered one of the most influential directors of Japanese cinematic history, wowing audiences with fantastical special effects while expressing the anxieties of Japan’s postwar reality. At this talk, Steve Ryfle, noted scholar of Japanese science fiction cinema and author of Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, From Godzilla to Kurosawa, draws back the curtain on the man behind the monsters. Followed by a book signing reception. Tickets: $14/$11 Japan Society members, seniors & students
Japan Society Film offers a diverse selection of Japanese films, from classics to contemporary independent productions. Its aim is to entertain, educate and support activities in the Society's arts and culture programs. For more, visit www.japansociety.org/film.
Founded in 1907, Japan Society in New York City presents sophisticated, topical and accessible experiences of Japanese art and culture, and facilitates the exchange of ideas, knowledge and innovation between the U.S. and Japan. More than 200 events annually encompass world-class exhibitions, dynamic classical and cutting-edge contemporary performing arts, film premieres and retrospectives, workshops and demonstrations, tastings, family activities, language classes, and a range of high-profile talks and expert panels that present open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia.
During the 2017-18 season, Japan Society celebrates its 110th anniversary with expanded programming that builds toward a richer, more globally interconnected 21st century: groundbreaking creativity in the visual and performing arts, unique access to business insiders and cultural influencers, and critical focus on social and educational innovation, illuminating our world beyond borders.
Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 and 7 subway at Grand Central or the E and M subway at Lexington Avenue). For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit www.japansociety.org.
Japan Society’s Film Programs are generously supported by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund. Additional season support is provided by The Globus Family, Masu Hiroshi Masuyama, James Read Levy, Laurel Gonsalves, David S. Howe, Dr. Tatsuji Namba, Mr. and Mrs. Omar H. Al-Farisi, Geoff Matters, and Michael Romano.