This INDIVIDUAL PAPER session consists of Individual Presentations. SCROLL DOWN to each paper listed to view the individual presentations. Open the presentation and click the VIEW PRESENTATION button located in the footer of the PAPER presentation pop-up.
In Session: Art & Politics of the Social Body in Japan
“She Only Filmed the Beautiful Parts!”: Kawase Naomi’s "An" and When Unwanted Beauty Reigns Over the Forgotten
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Texas Tech University, United States
“She only filmed the beautiful parts!” So exclaimed Hitoe Anoe when discussing how Kawase Naomi depicts her home—the National Hansen’s Disease Sanatorium—in An (2015). Hitoe perfectly understands Kawase’s aesthetic. In the filmmaker’s melodrama uncovering the forgotten history of social and legal ostracization of Hansen’s Disease sufferers in Japan, beauty reigns supreme. Kawase defended her style in a personal interview, framing beauty as a subversive tool to push audiences to confront uncomfortable realities that they would otherwise ignore. This paper probes the problem of a necessary but perhaps ‘unwanted beauty,’ to deploy Holocaust scholar Brett Ashley Kaplan’s formulation, to ask: what is lost when outcasts can only be seen in a golden light? The interdisciplinary paper presents the divergent perspectives of those behind and in front of the camera. It mobilizes interviews with Kawase, featured disabled performers, and legal scholars investigating discriminatory laws. A description of a visit to the sanatorium further illustrates the dominating force of Kawase’s beautifying vision. The sanatorium’s cafeteria doubles as a kind of shrine to the film. An’s colorful production ephemera renders adjacent newspaper clippings about the residents small. Kawase’s beauty reigns even over her subjects’ quotidian. Their lives are continually hidden in the shimmer of her gaze. By teasing out the tensions between the auteur and her subjects, between the filmed and actual sanatorium, An emerges as a vital work for media, trauma, and disability scholars invested in the fraught ways a beautiful aesthetic might (de)humanize those forced to die alone and out of sight.