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Children in the Classroom (Kyōshitsu no kodomotachi, 1954, Japan, English subtitles, 30 min.) Directed and scripted by Susumu Hani. Cinematography by Shizuo Komura.
Hani considers this educational film as his directorial debut. Sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Children in the Classroom was initially designed to be a tutorial film that would demonstrate how to discipline troubled children. However, employing uniquely observational methods to film real children in a real school, the film brought a decisive change in the history of documentary cinema in Japan. Hani’s sensational debut as a so-called vérité documentarist in fact predates its Anglo-European counterparts, i.e., direct cinema in the United States and cinema vérité in France. Beyond the rhetoric of objectivity, his exhaustive and masterful use of close-ups in the film cinematically interrogates the inner world of the subjects he filmed. The film stunned entire documentary and educational film circuits in Japan, and Hani, just turned 26 that year, came to represent a new breed of filmmaker.
Courtesy Japan Foundation.
Children Who Draw (E o kaku kodomotachi, 1955. Japan, English subtitles. 38 min.) Directed and scripted by Susumu Hani. Cinematography by Shizuo Komura. Music by Norihiko Wada.
Shot as the sequel of Children in the Classroom, the film captures actual school children interacting in an art class in a similar fashion to his previous work. Constantly juxtaposing seemingly objective portrayal of children in black and white with their paintings in vivid color, this time Hani experiments with the color technology to engage with the interiority of the individuals he filmed. The camera in Children Who Draw also roams freely across the drawings laid out as if their frames are removed for a deeper psychological investigation reminiscent of Alain Resnais’s Guernica (1950). Hani’s camera, ‘de-framing’ the paintings, reflects the filmmaker’s subjective gaze. The film, originally planned to be an educational film to study child’s psychology through their paintings, eventually distributed nationwide through Toho and Nikkatsu studios.
Courtesy Japan Foundation.
Bad Boys and New Waves: The Cinema of HANI Susumu
Susumu Hani is one of the central and most diverse filmmakers that set the tone for the Japanese New Wave in the late 1950s and 1960s. Outside the mainstream commercial studios, Hani and his films engendered the most important force in reinventing postwar Japanese filmmaking. Yale University presents his best-known feature Bad Boys (1960) and two stunning short documentaries Children in the Classroom (1954)and Children Who Draw (1955) with Susumu Hani in person!