Friday, September 26, 2008

"Hikikomori" as viewed by filmmakers Francesco Jodice and Kal Karman

by Chris MaGee

A couple weeks ago we had reported on the Camera Japan Festival touring The Netherlands and Brussels and Belgium. I was so impressed with the line-up that I spent some time poking around online researching the films and through that search I found the shortest film in the bunch online, Francesco Jodice and Kal Karman's 22 minute look at urban Japanese shut-ins "Hikikomori."

Artist, architect, photographer and filmmaker Jodice, who hails from Naples, Italy and San Francisco documentary filmmaker Kal Karman formed the directing duo Otakulab in 2004 using a quote from Mark Twain as their artistic manifesto, "Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth on the other hand isn't." Camera in hand they headed to Tokyo in November of that year and filmed young adults in and around Akihabara about the phenomena of otaku and hikikomori in contemporary Japanese society. Many of you out there will recognize the terminology: "otaku" as people with a specific obsession (manga, anime... or Japanese films) and "hikikomori" as people who have difficulty interacting socially and thus lock themselves away at home.

The people that Jodice and Karman speak to present a very interesting take on these social phenomena, seeing them as almost the flipside of the coin to each other with the key difference being that otaku have that one obsessive interest that keeps them connected with society at large while hikikomori lack that key component and end up imploding.

As I said before "Hikikomori" is available online at, an online initiative to make work of video artists online, but you have to register with them first. Good news is that it's free.

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