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Armed Actuality: The Films of Adachi Masao



Adachi Masao, born in Kitakyushu on the northern tip of Kyushu in 1939, is a director, screenwriter, and anti-imperialist revolutionary active in the world of cinema from in the 1960s-early 1970s and after the mid-2000s. In the early 1960s, he rose to fame in the world of underground experimental cinema as a member of the Nihon University Cinema Club. He collaborated closely with Wakamatsu Koji and Oshima Nagisa as a screenwriter, often under the pen name "De Deguchi", and later joined the independent production company Wakamatsu Pro where he became a key figure of pink film in the 1960s. Representative of the most radical wing of Japanese New Wave cinema, Adachi's filmmaking and theoretical writings are characterized by an attunement to the immediacy and actuality of left-wing revolutionary politics as it unfolds historically. The "Landscape Theory" pioneered by Adachi and his comrades has had a profound impact on generations of moving image makers committed to resisting the operations of power in visions of the everyday. In the early 1970s, Adachi left Japan for Lebanon, where he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and became a spokesperson for the Japanese Red Army (JRA) under the leadership of Shigenobu Fusako. Adachi was arrested and imprisoned in 1997, extradited to Japan in 2000, and returned to filmmaking upon his release. Retrospectives and exhibitions of his work have been held at the Harvard Film Archive, International Film Festival Rotterdam, and the American University of Beirut in recent years.

BISFF 2023 ASTRO will premiere five of Adachi's most iconic works from his storied career in mainland China. From surrealist experiments from his student days to the latest biopic of an assassin, filmed and screened guerrilla-style in protest of Shinzo Abe's state funeral, his films have always been made with a keen awareness of the situatedness of those who act upon the world - and made for those who will choose to act in the present. The screenings will be followed by an onine discussion and Q&A with Adachi.






A man commits an unmotivated murder of his own mother, but the people of his village could only accept the fact that the mother was dead. A funeral is held with his younger sister acting as the main family representative but with the parricide unacknowledged and the man excommunicated from the village community, he attempts to destroy the funeral ceremony. The failure of the Anpo struggle of 1960 is told metaphorically through the story of a barren village rooted in traditions. By using restrained compositions with highly contrasted black-and-white images and no dialogue, the film depicts the heavy and dreary situation of its time.

The fourth film by the Nihon University Film Studies Club (Nichidai Eiken) and the first since changing its name to Nihon University New Film Studies Club (Shin Eiken). It was first screened alongside Kyoto University Cinema Club’s It was first screened alongside Kyoto University Cinema Club’s Mu and Kwansei Gakuin Film Studies Club’s Delta at the Sixth All-Japan Student Film Festival, but the film’s wide acclaim extended beyond the student film circuit. Alongside fellow Eiken members Motoharu Jonouchi and Isao Okishima, Adachi emerged as one of the leading figures in the underground experimental scene of the 1960s.




Five high-school students decide to embark on a guerrilla-style revolution in the mountains for their fight against their school’s graduation ceremony. Shot in CinemaScope in the midst of the student protests of late 1960s Japan, Adachi Masao’s fifth "pink film" with Wakamatsu Productions is a comedic oddity and a candid portrait of collective struggle. It shows the intricate, at times absurd fusing of sex, pleasure, and politics, but also critiques the inner group frictions (uchi-geba) that occurred in many revolutionary factions during the nationwide protests. Female Student Guerrilla foreshadows the Asama Sanso Incident of 1972 where such conflicts culminated in a shoot-out between police and student activists in the mountains that is widely considered to have marked the end of the United Red Army and the failure of their revolution.





In the fall of 1968, 19-year-old Nagayama Norio murdered four people in a killing spree across Japan with a shotgun stolen from a U.S. Army base. Adachi Masao, together w,ith cultural theorist Matsuda Masao, scriptwriter Sasaki Mamoru and other collaborators, set out to follow his footsteps, from a shabby home in Hokkaido to Tokyo, with a camera in hand. The result is a documentary - hailed as the beginning of the influential "landscape theory" in Japanese film theory and practice - comprised of static shots of landscapes that the young man may or may not have seen in his life up until his arrest. Departing from sensationalist representations of crime, the film exposes the bare materiality of everyday landscapes without dramatic visuals or causal narrativeity or interiority of Nagayama—one of the so-called "golden eggs" (kin no tamago), young workers sent from the countryside to do low-wage, unskilled work in Tokyo; rather, the anonymous and fragmentary scenes ask that we behold the memory of the cities, the habitats of the underclass, thereby universalizing and historicizing Nagayama’s existence within the social context of postwar Japan during the period of high economic growth.s. Adachi’s voiceover does not place emphasis on the individuality or interiority of Nagayama—one of the so-called "golden eggs" (kin no tamago), young workers sent from the countryside to do low-wage, unskilled work in Tokyo; rather, the anonymous and fragmentary scenes ask that we behold the memory of the cities, the habitats of the underclass, thereby universalizing and historicizing Nagayama’s existence within the social context of postwar Japan during the period of high economic growth.





Directed by Adachi Masao and produced by Wakamatsu Koji in collaboration with the PFLP (The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and the Red Army Faction of Japan. While the subject of this documentary is the frontline of the Palestinian liberation struggle, most scenes do not depict spectacles of war, but instead show the uneventful everyday lives of guerrilla fighters training in refugee camps, overlaid with radical political propaganda and narration. Through his development of Landscape Theory and growing awareness that the landscape itself had been commodified as a spectacle through the process of urbanization, Adachi came to establish a new theory of tactical media and news reporting via film production that captures landscape as the primary domain where power functions. A theory of cinematic production as a form of political movement for alternative film distribution and screening was also proposed through the organization of the "Red Bus Screening Troop," which traveled around Japan and abroad to show the film. The aim was to go beyond the auteurist model of cinema, and to create a new producer-viewer relationship outside theater distribution.





Kawakami Tatsuya's mother joins a religious group after her husband's suicide, leaving her three children in poverty after donating the family fortune to the group. The eldest son commits suicide after losing his eyesight due to illness. Believing that the cult had ruined his life, he makes his own gun and carries out an assassination plot against former prime minister Abe Shinzo, who has close ties to the religious group. A semi-fictionalized narrative told from the perspective of Abe's real-life assassin Yamagami Tetsuya, the film was produced swiftly following the assassination in July 2022, and was scored by Otomo Yoshihide. On September 27, 2022, the day of Abe’s state funeral, a 50-minute cut was shown in small theaters across Japan as a form of protest.






Special Curator:康康 Kang Kang

Layout Designer:花旗参

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