Olympian Naomi Kawasis: More passion than sport

There are probably more children and children than athletes in two of Naomi Kawasiz’s two four-hour sequels combined, almost disturbingly titled. The official film of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. First of all, those games were not held as intended in 2020, when the world was at a standstill due to the global covid pandemic, but in 2021, and without an audience.

And yes, the two segments that can now be seen at the IFFR together make up the “official film” of the Games, commissioned by the IOC, but almost everything you can expect from a sports film about such a major event is missing. There are no cheering crowds, no widely published records, no breathtaking sports performances, and no athletes who haven’t been crying. Kawase zooms in on today’s athletes and their predecessors. It is interesting for the Dutch public to parade the gold medal won by judoka Anton Gesink in 1964, the last time Japan staged the Games. Kawase also looks to the athletes of tomorrow. Her filmography is a portrait of different generations. about continuity rather than a past event.

So, double Tokyo 2020 Olympics Side A and B Everything to become a classic like Kon Ichikawa Tokyo Olympics, the movie about the 1964 games. Ishikawa’s movie wasn’t isolated either. He was to be the counterpart of the controversial Leni Riefenstahl Olympia, a partly staged reversal of the 1938 Summer Games, when the Nazis were in power in Germany. Propaganda prevails through sports. also Tokyo Olympics, one of the best sports movies ever made, he just couldn’t escape it. There are two versions of the film: a traditional re-edit by the Japanese Olympic Committee, and its own version: a cinematic glider dive.

A still from the documentary “Official Film of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games” by Naomi Kwase.

People also looked over Kawase’s shoulders, although she had more freedom than Kon Ichikawa. “The protests were no secret,” she says, so she could only film them, just as the presence of Covid and the turbulent society. “It was mainly about photographing the right brands. Not by chance is the Pepsi ad in the background, while the money came from Coca-Cola.”

Naomi Kouase was in Amsterdam last December for screenings of the virtual reality movie Missing photos: Oh Depo at the Eye Filmmuseum, a never-fulfilled dream project about an impossible love between two strangers. There she said how Tokyo 2020 Olympics It also almost never took place, due to the continued postponement of the Games and swelling protests among the Japanese population. The financial interests were enormous. It was about prestige and losing face. In the end, according to Kawase, it became a film about “a turning point in Japanese history,” which shows what we could not see. “A pandemic like this probably only happens once every 100 years, so I felt a responsibility to document the impact,” she said.

female look

Tokyo 2020 Olympics is also an emphatic sports movie with an extension female look. Kawase is probably the best-known film author from Japan, whose films have been awarded at international film festivals and also screened in Rotterdam. movies like Mourning ForestAnd Sweet bean And Real mothers He also got regular cinema exposure in the Netherlands. All of these films have only two themes: the fragility of the body (often older) and fatherhood. Kawase rose to fame in the early 1990s with a series of biographical documentaries, in which she portrayed her adoptive parents and searched for her birth parents. in birth / mother (2006) links the impending death of her adoptive mother to the birth of her son.

Tokyo 2021 Olympics opening ceremony. A still from the documentary “Official Film of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games” by Naomi Kwase.

There is a direct line between those films and their view of the Olympic Games. In Pictures Without Caption, she tells a story about bodies pushing themselves to the limits and how mathematicians combine motherhood and sport. Kawase: “There are many discussions about gender inequality around the world, and Japan is lagging behind. That’s why I started researching female athletes who are mothers and still perform at the highest level.” golden raid. In the run-up to the Games, Canadian basketball star Kim Gucher successfully pleaded with the International Olympic Committee to allow her three-month-old daughter to be taken to Tokyo to breastfeed. “In Japan we are more traditional and restrained. A picture like a gusher husband taking on a caring role while training his wife, you won’t see much with us.”

There are many discussions around the world about gender inequality, and Japan is far behind. That’s why I started looking for female athletes who are moms and still perform at their peak

Naomi Kwasi Creator of the official film for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Covid restrictions also meant getting into situations for Kawase that she otherwise wouldn’t have shot so quickly. It had people followed by local crews into their home situations, so the gaming action became less of a focus. “I think I’m showing a bigger picture in this way, that we as a Japanese society can also learn something. An athlete’s husband says that ‘Athletes are human beings too’, I don’t see a Japanese guy saying that so quickly.”

time capsule

Where’s Lenny Riefenstahl at Olympia Emphasizing the body as a human machine, Kon Ichikawa and Naomi Kawase’s films are moving because of their eye for the human dimension and the personal side of sport. Ichikawa elegantly navigates between physical and physical intimacy, between race and grandeur. What helped Kawase was that as a young woman she was an avid basketball player, which allowed her to provide insight into the emotional side of the sport. The physical performance also has a mental release with it.

However, the biggest similarity between 1964 and 2020/1 is that in both cases the games have been given great symbolic importance, serving as a social and historical time capsule. Tokyo Olympics A film about reconstruction, about the traumas of World War II and Hiroshima. In 2021, the country is recovering from a nuclear disaster, the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, and is in the middle of a pandemic. The shadows of the past still loom large, and the future is more uncertain than it was then. Kawase: I wanted to make a movie for kids who are going to live 100 years later, who are going to look back on the follies we’ve done, to the fact that there are still national borders, that there’s an entire sporting event hanging on to it. I wanted to portray gold medalists in life and in the future.”

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