2018 Volume 100 Pages 10-31
This article examines how the filmmakers of Geijutsu-Eiga-sha (GES), a midlevel Bunka-Eiga (culture film) production company utilized Paul Rotha’s theory of the “documentary” in their method of production. This impact can be assessed in two GES films: Snow Country (1939) and Record of a Nursery (1942). The work of Rotha, the author of the seminal book Documentary Film (1935), directly inspired the GES filmmakers to transform their production site, which thereby established a new visual expression style for Bunka-Eiga. Importantly, this new production method and style functioned as a way to cope with increasing war demands.
Scholars of Japanese documentary studies traditionally used the lens of “war responsibility theory” in their analysis, which thereby elevated the significance of postwar documentary filmmakers. The praxis of the pre-war filmmakers of Bunka-Eiga has therefore been largely overlooked; this article serves as a corrective, as evidenced in the latter’s conscious adoption of Rotha’s theories during the late 1930s through the early 1940s. Drawing upon cultural studies, this article investigates the relationship between social conditions and production activities during wartime Japan. While the aforementioned films embraced Rotha in a different manner, each built a new Bunka-Eiga style together.