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In Session: Emergent Means: Media, Performance, and Actuality in Interwar Japan
1: Shooting the Everyday: Dissemination of Portable Technologies and Amateur Film Discourse
Monday, March 22, 2021
12:30pm – 2:00pm EDT
Yale University, Japan
While commercial narrative cinema under Japanese modernity has long been the object of scholarly attention, researchers have only recently recognized the vibrant cultures of home movies and amateur film, as exemplified by recent studies on wartime amateurism (Itakura 2017), and on amateur travelogues (Ogawa 2018). My study examines this understudied domain in light of the spread of portable film technologies that occurred from the mid-1920s when portable (8mm, 9.5mm, 16mm) film cameras and projectors entered into the home and semi-private spaces. Specifically, I investigate how contemporary notions of amateurism in interwar Japan were tied to the discourse of the everyday, paying attention to the discussions of amateur cinema by prominent commercial directors, including Gosho Heinosuke, Suzuki Shigeyoshi, and Ushihara Kiyohiko; these directors not only made studio films for commercial release but also participated in amateur cinema in various ways, such as by publishing essays and scenarios in amateur coterie magazines. Focusing particularly on Gosho as one of the first Japanese to acquire 8mm equipment for private use, this paper examines how Gosho, among other studio directors, considered amateur film as capable of capturing immediate, everyday experiences in ways that commercial films could not. Moreover, I identify contradictions and negotiations entailed by this discourse, especially with regards to class and gender. My study ultimately presents the cultural and socio-economic roles of amateur film as an emerging medium, and how its mediation between the private and public spheres can be situated within the framework of cultural and economic unevenness that Harootunian discusses.