Documentary Review: Storytellers (2013) by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Sakai Ko

From 2011 to 2013, Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Ko Sakai carried out a collection of interviews and conversations with residents of the northern area of Tohoku, an space which was closely hit by each the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. Their analysis resulted in three movies that finally turned the Tohoku Trilogy: “The Sound of the Waves”, “Voices from the Waves” and the present one, “Storytellers” which focuses on numerous aged inhabitants of the world narrating banashi (people tales of rural life usually that includes speaking animals).

“Storytellers” is screening free of charge at DAFilms as a part of the “Made in Japan, Yamagata 1989 – 2021” program

The folks storytellers are Masako Ito, Ken Sasaki, and Reiko Sato who, both of their houses or gathered at Kurikomayama in Miyagi Prefecture, discuss to folklore scholar Kazuko Ono, founding father of the Miyagi Folkgroup. The documentary follows a sure motif, beginning with a collection of folktales, earlier than Ono dwells a bit extra within the private lives of the narrators, and notably the hardships they confronted of their youth, which additionally mirror her personal. Numerous scenes inside automobiles, as Ono is transferring from space to space, characteristic her explaining the background of the people tales and their occasional hidden meanings. In that trend, the one with the monkey who ended up marrying the daughter of a farmer is definitely a metaphor the place the animal symbolises the wealthy. 

The remainder of the tales, a few of that are completely different variations of the identical one, observe the identical path, as they embody a bunch of frogs, a shrimp and an eagle, a playing god, and most amusingly, the speaking backside of a wealthy woman and the way in which a priest managed to wipe it, in probably the most amusing story of all, courtesy of Masako, who even adjustments her voice when making the voice of the bum.

The documentary serves one of the vital necessary functions of the medium, because it information the voices of people that wouldn’t have been heard in any other case, whereas highlighting the connection between oral storytelling and actuality in one of the best trend. Ono is a superb interviewer, being well mannered and responsive, whereas the truth that she is having fun with herself as a lot because the narrators turns into apparent and provides intensely to the leisure the film affords. Moreover, the framing by DPs Yukiko Iioka, Yoshio Kitagawa and Yasuyuki Sasaki is often spectacular, notably within the methods home windows and the varied embroidered partitions in the home of the interviewees are carried out. 

Then again, at 120 minutes, and notably contemplating the “speaking heads” method and the truth that the entire of the documentary contains solely of narration, which may be fairly monotonous at instances, the film undoubtedly overextends its welcome, to the purpose that’s tough to observe after a degree. 

“Storytellers” is a vital movie, notably contemplating its context, function, and general cinematic artistry. On the similar time, although, it’s too lengthy, and primarily addresses a really particular viewers that’s uncertain if it may be discovered outdoors of Japan in any respect. 



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