Hara Kazuo Masterclass

Hara Kazuo Masterclass, Open City Documentary Festival, 6th September 2018

Hara describes his work as ‘action documentary’, bringing together the aspirations of the documentary to illuminate with the shock potential of the action film. He also attempts to throw light on wider Japanese society by focusing on people and activities on the margins. In ‘The Emperor’s Invisible Army Marches On’ (1987) the shock comes from the eruption of violence, and the quandary of the film-maker in having to respond to the unexpected, as well as the emergence of the details of the behaviour of Japanese troops in South East Asia at the end of the Second World War.


The films raise, in different ways, ethical questions about the relationship between with film-maker and the subjects of the films, which generalise to other forms of artistic practice. For me as a photographer, it is important to work through ethical issues that might emerge from my work, in much the same way that I would in the design and conduct of social research. In Hara’s work, the risk is integral to the project. There is an ethical tension at the heart of each film from the outset (for instance, his relationship with his ex-wife, the subject of the film Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974), but how this might be manifest in events, and how participants in the film, including the film-maker, might react, is uncertain. The conversation with Hara provided insight into the process of making the films, and the pragmatic manner in which the direction taken by the films emerges. The films are consequently episodic in form, rather than having a strong central narrative.