In the opening scene of Yama: Attack to Attack, director Sato Mitsuo is taken to the hospital, having been stabbed on the orders of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. He doesn’t survive the attack. They targeted him because of his work on this documentary in the impoverished Sanya neighborhood of Tokyo, capturing in black-and-white the harsh lives of day laborers who are exploited by their bosses and the Yakuza, with the support of local politicians. Now, though, the workers have had enough, and in spite of the dangers they start to organize. Resistance grows, and is further fueled by Sato Mitsuo’s murder.
Mitsuo and Yamaoka Kyoichi, who took up the baton after Mitsuo’s death, lived in the area while making the film and show daily life there from the inside. They listen with deep understanding to stories nobody has ever wanted to hear before. This sympathetic championing of their cause is also a unique record of the times. Kyoichi’s involvement cost him his life, too. Just before the premiere, he was shot dead. This film is a testament to the courage of its makers, and to the courage of the laborers.