From David Plath, Producer
5/4/1999. Makiko will be broadcast over Nebraska ETV (statewide) on Sunday morning, May 16th. No other broadcasts scheduled as of the moment, but we will be submitting it to Central Educational Media, which distributes to PBS affiliates for broadcast use.
Makiko Wins Award
11/28/1999. Good News! The Makiko show has been named to receive the SilverPrize in the annual Competition for Films and
Videos on Japan, sponsored by the Asahi Newspaper Corp. There were 51 entries. Slightly more than half of them were from foreign producers. Six prizes are to be awarded; all winners other than Makiko are films made by Japanese production agencies. So: another round of congratulations and thanks to all!
Diary Translator Praises APP
"I wanted you to know how impressed I am with your camera work. The soft focus seems to work very well and I find it far preferable to the usual the-past-in-sepia tone favored by many for flashbacks in such films. I'm amazed at how much you and the others managed to accomplish in three short weeks, and only wish I could have been here to watch.
It is an odd experience to see a visualization of someone I've known only through print and in my mind's eye. And thanks to you, I now feel that I know Makiko in another, different way.
David Plath and the Media Production Group at the University of Illinois , Urbana-Champaign have done us a great service with the emergence of this film. Makiko's New World presents viewers with and audio-visual version of an extraordinary view of everyday life in Kyoto, Japan, 1910, as understood and selectively recorded by the 20-year-old wife in a 200-year-old merchant household. The original text, its translation, and new film are all remarkable documents for several significant reasons.
Makiko Appears in "American Anthropologist"
By Richard Chalfen, Temple University, Japan
(Reprinted by permission of the American Anthropological Association from American Anthropologist (101)3. Not for further reproduction)
We are presented with a refreshingly clever relationship of published written material and the subsequent audio-visual version of that material. The original subject matter of this film is a diary written by Makiko Nakano in 1910; the first published pieces of the diary, edited by her son Takashi (a noted professor of Sociology, now retired) appeared in 1965. A book-length Japanese edition of the diary appeared in 1981, three years after Makiko died at the auspicious age of 88. Cornell University's Kazuko Smith then translated the diary and published Makiko's Diary: A Merchant's Wife in 1910 with Stanford University Press in 1995, and now this film appears in 1999.
The skeleton of the film's storyline is sequenced and sutured in a pattern of several layers. This structural strategy includes a rough chronology, regular periodic readings from Makiko's Diary, a series of ten topics akin to chapter headings sometimes focused on specific subjects, other times events or topics, e.g., "Rescued Memories," "Diaries and Women's lives," "Her Birth Family," Western Food," etc. The structure is enhanced by periodic exposition by social scientists Plath and Nakano as well as historians Yoko Nishikawa, Yasuhiro Tanaka and Anne Walthall.
We also hear and see Makiko's niece, Kikuko Matsui, as she speaks of her wise and modern Auntie while looking over the pages of a family photo album. All provide very rich pieces of contextual commentary.
The written diary is referenced many times throughout the film, as we see many reconstructed scenes of kimono-clad Makiko using brush and ink to write her diary with voice-over statements in her own words. The 1910 diary itself provides us with many details of everyday life as seen and recorded by the middle-class wife of the head of a Kyoto pharmacy business. This pictorial version brings the material so much to life contributing new life to an old life in memorable ways.
Minimally we are offered time and opportunity to reflect on the diary as both a symbolic form and mediated form of communication -- certainly not everything is written about, begging attention to historical and cultural variations of inclusion and exclusion. Then we are asked to speculate on what changes might be introduced when cameras, as increasingly popular and available consumer technology, are added to brush and ink as means of depiction and indeed remembering details of everyday life.
Historical lessons are offered as viewers see and hear several people commenting on the diary tradition in Japan, including availability of diary types, ways to interpret such period materials, the general historical context and significance of such diaries, and why Makiko Nakano has offered us such an interesting example.
On camera, David Plath makes the point that during this year, the Nakano family bought "a used snapshot camera" for 23 yen. Many such families could then, for the first time, begin to record themselves visually. Nishikawa comments that when publishing houses started printing blank diaries, people started writing diaries in numbers never seen before, and we later hear that diaries became "an instrument of popular education" The implication is that this transition from the verbal/written to the visual/pictorial seemed like such a natural thing to do. Makiko's original diary in fact makes several references to studio and backyard camera-aided events. The important point is that a diary tradition was firmly in place before the availability of mass consumer cameras. We also know that when cameras became available on a popular scale, people started taking pictures, literally and figuratively, like never seen before. Details of how photographs supplement and/or replace diarist written words remains to be studied.
We frequently hear that Japanese people are famous for a broad range of pictorial productions, both historically and in contemporary times, from representations found in scrolls, to Ukiyo-e prints, to manga, to the films of Kurosawa and Ozu and now Print Club, just to mention a few. In this context there are important lessons to be learned and passed on about the creative integration of alternative visual forms. Makiko's New World takes full advantage of the popularity of photographic representation in Japan as we see the inclusion of many studio portraits and informal snapshot-like images.
In turn, Plath has supervised the integration and juxtaposition of a rich and beautiful fabric of alternative visual formats. For instance, we see the inclusion of old photographs; we are offered aerial and ground level views; we see black and white images combined with hand tinted color stills; we find clips of historic black and white footage from before and during World War II, combined with nicely composed original contemporary color photographs and old family albums; and we see a series of well-acted, haze filtered 1910 re-enactments combined with 1998 on-camera posed interviews.
Culture change is also an important theme of Makiko's New World. In addition to providing information about what is new at a time when twentieth-century Western material culture was rapidly spreading throughout the world. We hear commentary on changes in clothing, house design and furniture, transportation (rubber-tired rickshaws), music, as well as food preparation and presentation and even on changes in light levels produced by the introduction of electricity – reminiscent on Tanizaki's 1933 comments found in In Praise of Shadows. We are given examples of how diary types and formats have changed during this period.
The visual rendition of this diary material with its impressive visuality of images and accompanying commentary present major contributions to an enhanced understanding of the time period and cultural setting. Here the film medium offers instructors and students valuable lessons in how the same film can have multiple alternative uses. The film offers important lessons to students of Japanese history and ethnography, visual studies and media practice, visual anthropology, material culture, culture change, narrative studies and life history, and even memory studies. I strongly recommend that Makiko's New World be made available to students for study as part of several screenings. I was even drawn back to Kazuko Smith's book to review what else has been recorded for specific days cited in the film. These points will be further enhanced by the two Study Guides currently in preparation.
Such finely crafted examples as Makiko's New World will further a growing attention to the fact that lives come, are given and can be taken in multi-modal ways, and that visual renderings of life find an integrated and meaningful position alongside their previous logocentric models. This film provides a wonderful starting point to substantiate these points. Combined attention to both written and audio-visual renditions of Makiko's Diary will provide many valuable contributions and learning experiences.
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