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Blurred Boundaries: Ethnofiction and Its Impact on Postwar Japanese Cinema

Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR14DH, UK
Received: 24 December 2018 / Revised: 17 January 2019 / Accepted: 31 January 2019 / Published: 2 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Developments in Japanese Documentary Film)
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This article explores the use of ethnofiction, a technique emerging from the field of visual anthropology, which blends documentary and fiction filmmaking for ethnographic purposes. From Imamura Shōhei’s A Man Vanishes (Ningen jōhatsu, 1967) to Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Cafe Lumieré (Kōhi jikō, 2003), Japanese cinema, including Japan-set and Japan-associated cinema, has employed ethnofiction filmmaking techniques to alternately exploit and circumvent the structural barriers to filmmaking found in everyday life. Yet the dominant understanding in Japanese visual ethnography positions ethnofiction as an imported genre, reaching Japan through Jean Rouch and French cinema-verité. Blending visual analysis of Imamura and Hou’s ethnofiction films with an auto-ethnographic account of my own experience of four years of visual anthropology in Kansai, I interrogate the organizational barriers constructed around geographical perception and genre definition to argue for ethnofiction as a filmmaking technique that simultaneously emerged in French cinema-verité and Japanese feature filmmaking of the 1960s. Blurring the boundaries between Japanese, French, and East Asian co-production films, and between documentary and fiction genres, allows us to understand ethnofiction as a truly global innovation, with certain regional specificities. View Full-Text
Keywords: ethnofiction; Japan; documentary; non-fiction; dramatization ethnofiction; Japan; documentary; non-fiction; dramatization
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Coates, J. Blurred Boundaries: Ethnofiction and Its Impact on Postwar Japanese Cinema. Arts 2019, 8, 20.

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