Five years in the making, this documentary revolves around 62-year-old Kenzo Okuzaki, a survivor of the battlefields of New Guinea in World War II who gained notoriety by slingshooting steel pinballs at Emperor Showa to protest against what he considered to be the ruler’s war crimes. Setting out to conduct interviews with survivors and relatives, he finds the truth of the past to be elusive, achieving a breakthrough only when he confronts ex-Sergeant Yamada, who grudgingly admits that certain atrocities did indeed take place and were carried out on instructions from above.
About the director: Kazuo Hara was born in 1945, Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. He attended the Tokyo College of Photography before dropping out to work as support staff at a special education school, where he developed an intense interest in the world of disabled children. He subsequently held a photo exhibition titled “Baka ni Sunna” (Don’t Make Fun of Me). In 1972 he founded the production company Shissoh Production with Sachiko Kobayashi, and made his directorial debut that same year with the documentary film Goodbye CP. The follow-up Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 profiles Hara’s ex-wife Miyuki Takeda. Made in 1974, it drew acclaim as a pioneering “self-documentary.” In 1987, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On followed former soldier Kenzo Okuzaki’s relentless hounding of his superior officers to hold them accountable for their actions in World War II. It became a huge hit, winning a Best Newcomer Award from the Director’s Guild of Japan, the Berlin International Film Festival’s Caligari Film Award, the Cinéma du Réel’s Grand Prix, and many other accolades. With 1994 came the release of A Dedicated Life, an examination of truths and fictions surrounding the novelist Mitsuharu Inoue, which topped film magazine Kinema Junpo’s Best 10 list of Japanese films for that year. In 2005 Hara presented his first fiction film The Many Faces of Chika, in which four actresses portray the life of one woman. He is actively involved in cultivating new filmmakers, having taught at the Japan Institute of the Moving Image, Waseda University, the Osaka University of Arts, and other institutions, as well as holding his own film studies workshop Cinema Juku on an irregular basis. Despite being far from prolific as a director, the films Hara has released to date are all highly regarded, and retrospectives of his works have been held at international film festivals in Buenos Aires, Montreal, Sheffield, Amsterdam, and elsewhere.