During the Second World War, Japanese film editor Chounosuke Ise made numerous propaganda films in Japanese-occupied Indonesia. Their purpose was to justify Japan’s hegemony in Asia, claiming liberation of these countries from colonialism. Chounosuke Ise’s son, filmmaker Shin-ichi Ise, traces the path taken by his father, who barely spoke about the war or Indonesia, and was seemingly reluctant to discuss what he had done there.
Shin-ichi Ise’s quest takes him to film studios in Jakarta that were built by forced laborers, to eyewitnesses who recall the atrocities committed by the Japanese military police, and to women who fled from rapists.
It turns out that the propaganda films—130 of them—are stored at the Dutch National Archive in The Hague. Here, at last, Shin-ichi Ise can watch his father’s propaganda films, on subjects such as Japanese efforts to control malaria and the work of railway laborers. “Why did he make them?” he wonders. And what would he have done in the same situation? History is clearly not finished; now is the past, and the past is now.
Nominated for the Beeld en Geluid IDFA ReFrame Award