|Jihei (Naohisa Nakagi), right with eyepatch, returns to Sanchu
Sanchu Uprising: Voices at Dawn will be the Closing Film for this year's JAPAN CUTS film festival.
Set in the early 1700s in Sanchu, Okayama Prefecture, the film depicts the reaction of farmers, woodworkers, and iron workers to the increased taxes that are coming into effect to satisfy the members of Japan's ruling class, the shogunate, the daimyo (local lords) and the samurai. The film focuses primarily on Jihei (Naohisa Nakagi) a simple farmer whose wife Tami (Kano Kajiwara) is pregnant with their first child.
Under the leadership of Tokeumon (Shinnosuke Uryu), the rebels secure an agreement by which all but one of their demands are met. But this is just a ploy by the authorities to sew division and dissent amongst the rebels, which is exactly what happens. As the situation escalates and violent conflict becomes inevitable, suspicions and betrayal arise. Jihei, a reluctant participant at best, wants nothing more than to live and makes a fateful decision.
Sanchu Uprising is in many ways an unusual jidaigeki (period film). While it shares with Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai the basic tale of oppressed farmers, here the farmers defend themselves against the authorities, not against bandits with the aid of seven ronin (masterless samurai). And there is no violence to speak off depicted onscreen. By focusing on the various elements of the rebellion -- the aforementioned farmers, woodworkers and iron-workers -- and on one individual farmer in particular, director Yamasaki has produced an intriguing new take on the genre.
The live-action black-and-white film includes an animated sequence by Tomomichi Nakamura and an experimental score by Ayako Sasaki. The film's concluding segment brings the story into the present and is done in color.
This screening will include an introduction and Q&A with director Juichiro Yamasaki.
AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars, highly recommended.