Odoriko are the dancers of the dying Japanese striptease theater. An intimate observation of the moments backstage when, stripped of their costumes, they chat, eat, and philosophize—until it’s time to get ready for the next act.More info
Throughout the festival, the IDFA programmers will present their favourite hidden gems within the selection. Today: Joost Daamen, the senior programmer who's responsible for the Competition for Feature-Length Documentary and the Paradocs program this year. He recommends Odoriko by Yoichiro Okutani.
This film from the Feature Length Competition is primarily a portrait of a Japanese dance theater form that is slowly disappearing. Yoichiro Okutani shows a special type of cabaret with an erotic edge. But his view never gets voyeuristic or perverse anywhere. The striptease dancers in his documentary perform according to a strikingly fixed pattern, with outrageous costumes, acrobatics, and ten-hour shifts. These so-called odoriko travel around and perform in only a handful of special theaters in Japan, in which they live during that time. There are only twenty theaters left and their number is decreasing.
Okutani focuses his camera mainly on everyday life behind the scenes. He filmed over a longer period, for about four years. Everything is in 4:3 aspect ratio and filmed with a DV camera. Those old video images with the distinctive colours give the shots a nostalgic feeling. Maybe they are images of ‘coming’ past times. Okutani’s framing is also striking: he opts for tight frames and fixed camera angles. Because the women are moving and behaving naturally during filming, not all the action takes place in the center of the frame. Sometimes someone walks out of the screen half-naked and you hear snippets of conversations in the background.
I appreciate the lack of sensationalism and the integrity and sophistication with which the existence of those women has been portrayed. Although they play a part on stage, behind the scenes they are free and just regular people with private lives and dreams of their own. The film is mainly observational, with only a few conversations in between. The image that arises is one of strong women who are very conscious of this type of life, who look at themselves primarily as artists and who are proud of that. In a fairly hierarchical country like Japan, this group of women is special in the sense that they are independent and do not follow the everyday line. This dying profession gives them self-esteem and freedom and that image really comes into its own because of Okutani's by-no-means exploitative way of filming.
Read more about Odoriko and get your tickets here.