Monday, September 18, 2023 at 7:30pm
Yann Le Masson and Bénie Deswarte's Kashima Paradise

361 Stagg Street, Suite 407, Brooklyn

Kashima Paradise, Yann Le Masson and Bénie Deswarte, 1973, digital projection, 110 mins

Light Industry hosts a rare screening of Kashima Paradise, perhaps its first-ever New York presentation with English subtitles. Along with works like Peasants of the Second Fortress, the film is one of the key documents of the Sanrizuka Struggle against the construction of the Narita Airport outside Tokyo. The conflict first began in 1966, and would feature dramatic stand-offs between local farmers, fighting alongside leftist radicals, and the police. As scholar Kristin Ross has noted, the effects were felt far beyond Japan: “It was these highly exemplary, even Homeric battles, immortalized in the films of Shinsuke Ogawa and Yann Le Masson—what I have come to regard as among the most defining combats of the worldwide 1960s—which, according to the testimony of many French militants of the era, inspired their own frontal and physical clashes with the police in the streets of Paris and other French cities.” Viewed today, Kashima Paradise also suggests a potent correspondence to movements closer to home, like the ongoing campaign to Stop Cop City in Atlanta.

The narration for the film was written by Chris Marker, who would go on to provide the single most eloquent description of the project, in a 1975 letter to Le Masson, reproduced below from a translation by Dirk Kuhlmann:

Kashima Paradise is a complete movie in the sense that we can say of a man that he is complete, that is to say, when he has torn down, within himself, a certain number of the watertight bulkheads encouraged by all the powers wanting to remain the sole masters of communication between domains said to be irreconcilable. Examples? A sociologist showing up in Japan in order to develop a doctoral thesis on the topic of “rural society and rapid industrialization in an advanced capitalist country”: here we have an enterprise that is well defined, classified, and framed within its own limits. A cinema operator traveling to Japan for making a film on the metamorphosis of industrial landscapes: here we have another enterprise that is equally well defined and classified. The slow professional, psychological, and social mutation of a Japanese farmer living through the mildly hallucinating transformation of his environment: this is an adventure of a different order, different from being, at best, of interest for the scientific and cool observation of the sociologist, for the consumption of scientific and cool readers, escaping, as a matter of principle, the regard of filmmakers, rushed and poorly equipped for in-depth studies as they are. A region moving, within a single year, from almost medieval agriculture into industrial surreality by the construction of a huge petrochemical complex, the largest artificial harbor in the world, the largest industrial combine in Japan: this is again something else, a topic for economists and epic poets, should these still exist. And a couple leaving Paris and its pretentious elite to live, as closely as possible, the daily life of a real, even rural society is yet another thing: a personal adventure at the limits of the incommunicable. Or where everything communicates: the sociologist has come to Japan with the filmmaker, a piece of good advice installs them in a village that is changed, at all levels, by the development of the industrial combine, the peasant experiencing the repercussions of this change maintains a relationship of trust with the couple, and better still, in the train of the communication established, actions are turned around, relationships are reversed: the interrogators are questioned themselves, the research feeds the film, the film questions the research to the point where, once finished, its subject will have become a different one, centering on a theme born of the film, the very life of the couple transformed by the enterprise, no one will remain neutral, life, having made its entry, will have irrigated everything, sociology, film, the village survey, the factory, the movie…A key to this carination is what most of us, and in particular the filmmakers, lack most: Time. The time for working, and also, and above all, for not working. The time for talking, for listening, and above all, for keeping silent. The time for filming and not filming, for understanding and not understanding, for wondering, and for waiting for the beyond of the wonder, the time for living. Time for getting accustomed, too, on both sides, and that’s no small feat. The reduced size of the film crew, just two persons, already softens the Martian trauma caused by a real shooting, but time continues to tame, to familiarize. We just get used to this camera, carried by Yann in front of his eyes like a myopic person wearing glasses for getting a better look at you, my child. We get used to the microphone that Bénie puts before the speaker like the ear trumpet of our grandmothers (pleasant grandmother). We get used to the presence of the myopic man and the hearing-impaired woman, amnesic as well, with their noting down of everything, recording of everything, in order to recount it at home. We will quiz them about this distant country of theirs, this archetype of the technical civilization that is knocking at our door. There again: different communities, different inversions. It is the woman who speaks Japanese in this country of men. The man is silent and gazes, but his gaze is strong. You get used to the talking presence, the mediation of the former, and the silent presence, the registration of the latter. At the end of the adventure, Kashima Paradise, the film of bulkheads torn down, where the exceptional beauty of the image, the rigor of the method, the knowledge of the economic and political forces at play, the genuine intimacy with men all support each other, where the sensibility of the image prevents the intelligence from being cool, where sharp analysis protects the spectacle from its own enchantment—the visual glare of certain moments, the funeral of a militant with its Fellinian helicopters, the battle of Narita with these Teutonic control forces, immersing everything in the only beauty that is genuine, granted as accretion when, for a human endeavor that started out as a quest for truth, it comes to signify the approval of the gods. As we know, the symbol of cinema’s magical privileges is often the “flower blooming in time lapse,” this intrusion of another time into the familiar one. This may be the first film where the story/history is filmed like a flower.

Tickets - Pay what you can ($10 suggested donation), available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm. No entry 10 minutes after start of show.