Monday, March 9, 2009

"Sounan Furiitaa" captures the plight of young underpaid workers in Japan

by Chris MaGee

I've been a fan of the work of documentary filmmaker Yutaka Tsuchiya and his personal and creative partner Karin Amamiya for awhile now. The two initially met during the filming of Tsuchiya's 1999 documentary "The New God" about Amamiya's ultra-right wing punk band The Revolutionary Truth and the two joined forces in 2004 to make the superb 2004 film "Peep 'TV' Show" that mixed documentary and narrative techniques to tell the story of alienated youth in Japan. It looks like Tsuchiya and Amamiya have continued on this track by producing a documentary by first time filmmaker Horoki Iwabuchi titled "Sounan Furiitaa (Freeter's Distress)" about the plight of "freeters", a term used in Japan to refer to educated young Japanese, usually between the ages of 18 and 35, who are trapped in low-paying part-time or freelance work.

Shot on a digital video camera by Iwabuchi when he was 23-years-old and living in a temporary dormitory "Sounan Furiitaa" captures him on his daily bicycle commutes to the Canon factory in Saitama where he was paid ¥1250 ($16.00 CAD) an hour for assembly line work. From overworked 20-something living of fast food the film follows Iwabuchi into Michael Moore territory as he becomes a spokesperson and lobbyist for the rights of freeters in Japan.

For those of us in Canada $16.00 an hour sound good, but not great, but in cosmpolitan Japan Iwabuchi was barely getting buy between rent, bills, food and his enormous student debt. High rents, low wages, student debt, commuting, and poor diet. Regardless of the difference in cost of living I think these are all things that young people anywhere can relate to, thus co-producer Amamiya's proclamation's that "Sounan Furiitaa" is "a youth film that's really universal."

You can check out the full trailer and more details on Iwabuchi's film at its official website here.

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