Reviving Ainu Lost Traditions on Screen: HIMEDA Tadayoshi’s documentary films

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September 1st, 2022 @ 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

Cost: Free
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Event Abstract:

Film representations of the Ainu people have existed since the inception of cinema but they have not remained stable over time. Ainu people were initially an object of interest for outsiders who portrayed them as “other” primitives, isolated from the modern world. The notion of “otherness” was slightly modified in the postwar period, when entertainment films and the tourist industry presented the new romanticized image of a “pseudo-Ainu” (giji Ainu) disconnected from their social reality and history. However, HIMEDA Tadayoshi’s documentaries made in the 70s alongside the Ainu leader KAYANO Shigeru, marked a significant turning point in Ainu film representation. This presentation focuses the first three films they collaborated in: The Wedding Ceremony of the Ainus (Ainu no kekkonshiki, 1971), Chise a Kar -We Build A House- (Chise a kara. Warera ie o tsukuru, 1974) and I-omante -The Bear Ritual- (Iyomante, Kuma okuri, 1977). It will be examined how, unlike previous documentaries featuring the Ainu, these films showcase a new ethnographic approach in which the Ainu are not depicted as an exotic tribe but a conventional people who are aware of their cultural assimilation. Additionally, the presentation will explore Himeda’s innovative approach in which for the first time, Ainu voices have a predominant role in the representation, mainly through the dialogues with KAYANO Shigeru whose comments provide an unseen close gaze to the Ainu traditions projected on screen. – Dr. Marcos Centeno

In this talk, Dr. Marcos Centeno will shine a light on the historic, ethnological, and artistic significance of HIMEDA Tadayoshi’s documentaries.

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Speaker Biography:

Marcos Centeno is lecturer in Media and Japanese Studies at University of Valencia and Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London, where he was the Japanese Programme director and taught modules related to Japanese Cinema, contemporary Japanese culture and society. He is also research associate at the SOAS University of London, where, he had been lecturer in Film Studies for the Department of Japan and Korea and coordinated the MA Global Cinemas and the Transcultural. His research interests revolve around Japanese documentary film, particularly the visual representation of minorities, transculturality and diversity. He written extensively on the film representation of the Ainu people and his full-length documentary film, Ainu. Pathways to Memory (2014) received several prizes. He has recently coedited with Michael Raine Developments in the Japanese Documentary Mode (Arts, 2020). and with Norimasa Morita Japanese Transnational Cinema (Mpdi 2020) and Japan beyond its Borders: Transnational Approaches to Film and Media (Seibunsha, 2020) which resulted from the “Japanese Transnational Cinema” project funded by Sasakawa and Daiwa foundations, Waseda and the Japanese Ministry of Education. He is currently leading the project Japanese Documentary Filmmaker Haneda Sumiko. Authorship and Gender Discourses (2021-22) which is sponsored by the Japan Foundation, London.

In Conjunction With:

The Ainu Films of HIMEDA Tadayoshi

The Japan Foundation, Toronto is proud to present three films from the late pioneering filmmaker, HIMEDA Tadayoshi. These documentaries have rarely been shown outside of Japan and are of immense ethnological importance. During the 1970s and 1980s, Director Himeda created a series of films in close collaboration with the late Ainu trailblazer KAYANO Shigeru. Mister Kayano was the first Ainu to sit in the Japanese parliament and one of the last native speakers of the Ainu language. These films marked a turning point in Ainu representation in cinema.

Online Film Screenings 

Related Programming:
Inuit Print Art and its Early Japanese Influences

In the mid-20th century, a series of fortunate events led to the introduction of Japanese printmaking techniques to the Inuit community of Cape Dorset. In this talk with Dr. Norman Vorano (Queens University), we will hear the story of how these ancient traditions of Japan made their way to the remote Canadian arctic, how Inuit artists built upon these traditions, and the ways in which Inuit printmaking continues to thrive today.

Watch Here

Additional Ainu Films, Videos & Resources

As a follow-up to our film screenings in recognition of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (August 9), we have assembled a collection of films, videos, and additional resources about the Ainu people. These resources and content are available for free and we hope it encourages you to continue learning about the indigenous peoples of Japan.

Watch Here

JF OverDrive: Ebooks about indigenous peoples of Japan

Deepen your understanding about the Ainu people and their culture by checking out ebooks on indigenous peoples of Japan before or after the film screening! Apply for a new library card or renew your expired card here.

Read Here 


September 1st, 2022 @ 7:30 pm
September 1st, 2022 @ 8:30 pm
Event Category:


The Japan Foundation, Toronto
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