“Amid this cinematic spectacle, familiar from previous films but now considerably larger and more violent, something very different is going on. In Peasants of the Second Fortress there are occasional moments when the action of the film grinds to a halt and people simply talk. While the students were once Ogawa’s focus, they now haunt the back ground of the film. They appear only occasionally to clash with mobs of riot police. In their stead the farmers take center stage, and in the most awkward style. Their speech is halting, filled with pauses and repetition. Where the typical filmmaker would search out the most articulate conversations and speakers (usually male leaders) and give them voice, Ogawa photographed unexceptional discussions and strategy sessions in long takes. The breaks, silences, sidetracks, and repetitions were left untouched by editing. As the farmers’ comprehension of their own situation deepened, so did Ogawa Pro’s understanding of the farmers themselves.”
Abé Mark Nornes1
“With his small crew, Ogawa became part of the movement itself, and the films, which were screened all over the country (usually in makeshift theaters), were instrumental in disseminating information about the struggle. But the films are noteworthy not simply because they document one of the most important struggles to occur in the past one hundred years in Japan. If this alone accounted for their significance, then nothing would distinguish them from so many reels of documentary news footage. Rather, the Sanrizuka films are crucial for what they do formally, for inventing a way of documenting the anti-airport struggle that was as radical as the struggle itself.”
“This film is like a mirror image of Tsuchimoto’s Minamata Revolt - A People’s Quest for Life (Minamata ikki-issho o to hitobito, 1973), the most memorable image of which is the calm, fortress-like face of the Chisso CEO surrounded by insurrection during a shareholders’ meeting. Breaking down the door with the battering ram of verbiage, activist Kawamoto Teruo sits cross-legged on the conference table inches from the CEO’s face. In contrast, the very real fortresses of Sanrizuka are violently invaded by representatives of the state. In these films, the revolt in Minamata appears to be on the verge of some fleeting, if bitter, victory, but the Sanrizuka Struggle results in assault, annihilation and retreat. Upon watching Peasants of the Second Fortress at a government sponsored symposium in the 1990s, even the president of the airport authority admitted, ‘As we just saw in that movie, what shall I say? Those were conditions we should properly call a war. We are now at a point when we have the sense that we don’t want this to occur again.’”
Abé Mark Nornes3
- 1Abé Mark Nornes, “The Postwar Documentary Trace: Groping in the Dark,” positions: east asia cultures critique, vol. 10 no. 1, 2002, 39-78.
- 2Eric Cazdyn, The Flash of Capital. Film and Geopolitics in Japan (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), 148.
- 3Abé Mark Nornes, “Zu Mimesis und musikalischem Element in Ogawa Shinsukes Dokumentarfilmen” [Mimesis and Musicality in the Documentary of Ogawa Shinsuke], Nachrichten (Hamburg) 181-182 (2007): 115-129.