Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This year's Hot Docs gives us two views of the dark side of Japanese culture

by Chris MaGee

Yesterday the full line-up for Toronto's 16th Annual Hot Docs Festival which runs from April 30th to May 10th was announced and amongst the 171 films that the documentary film festivals programmers have assembled are two that anyone with an interest in some of the darker aspects of Japanese contemporary culture should definitely seek out.

First off is French filmmaker and photographer Antoine d'Agata's 2008 film "Aka Ana" (above) which the director describes as "120 Fragments of a Chronology of Chaos." Made up of still photographs and documentary footage that D'Agata collected over a 12 weeks between September 2006 and January 2007 "Aka Ana" presents an impressionist journey into the underbelly of Japan, a place populated by prostitutes, porn stars, and junkies.

Next up is the controversial 2008 documentary by former National Geographic photographer and professional scuba diver Louie Psihoyos that garnered a huge amount of buzz at last year's Sundance Film Festival. "The Cove" follows Psihoyos, his diving companion Jim Clark and a group of environmental activists as they attempt to film what Japanese authorities would like to keep unfilmed: the annual slaughter of 2,500 dolphins off the coast of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture.

I know I'm going to try and catch these two docs as wel as a number of other once I get myself situtared after this year's Nippon Connections Festival in Frankfurt. If you're planning to do the same then make sure to check out the full list of films at the official site for Hot Docs here.

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