During the last week of March, Walker’s Women with Vision festival offers the rare opportunity to meet Japanese director Naomi Kawase, who’s not only Japan’s leading female filmmaker but also one of its most internationally known independent filmmakers. It’s no wonder everybody is heading for tickets of her latest film Mogari No Mori (The Mourning Forest) which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Festival last year, and which will be introduced and discussed by her in person.
But Shara (Sharasojyu) the other fiction film screened in the “ Spotlight on Kawase” series should not be missed either. The film contains an amazing scene that blew me away the first time I saw it, and did so every time I have seen it since. You shouldn’t pass on the chance to see it in the cinema.
The 7 minutes long dance scene I am talking about is surely not the only reason for seeing the film, but it will strike you emotionally in a way that seldom happens. It’s neither pathos nor a melodramatic constellation that is touching about this scene. Its stirring momentum is more a healing force that evolves out of the street dance of the city festival one of the protagonists is taking part in. There is the physicality of the voices and the energy of body movements, as well as the rhythm of singing or rather shouting, which provides a connecting bond for the group dancing as well as for the people watching. And all of this is transmitted by the film in a way that the liberating force of healing becomes perceptible to the audience of the film, too.
There is another reason why Shara, which was released in 2003, is interesting in terms of Kawase’s work. Kawase herself plays Reiko, who is pregnant in the second half of the film, and at the end she gives birth to a little boy at her home among her family. One year later Naomi Kawase is pregnant herself and gives birth to her son Mitsuki. And she includes scenes of her giving birth in the documentary Tarachime (Birth/Mother). So we have two birth scenes, both with the same woman and directed by her as well, and the fictional scene precedes the one in the documentary.