Thirty Years of Sisterhood

On the US tour of a Japanese documentary film by Yamagami Chieko and Seyama Noriko, "Thirty Years of Sisterhood: Women of the 1970s Women's Liberation Movement in Japan" in Feb. 2006.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Film Review by Livia Monnet (Professor, University of Montreal)

30 Years of Sisterhood-Women in the 1970s Women’s Liberation Movement in Japan (Sanjunen no Sisterhood: Senkyuhyaku nanaju nendai woman ribu no onna tachi, 2004) is a powerful documentary focusing on little known aspects of the history, unfolding, and multiple legacies of Japan's Women's Liberation Movement, or Woman's Lib (Uman ribu/Ribu) .

Adopting a different approach from Nanako Kurihara's Looking for Fumiko (1993) the only film engaging with the Japanese Women's Liberation Movement that has so far been shown, and received coverage internationally ? Thirty Years of Sisterhood records the testimonies and reminiscences of 12 participants at an annual gathering for former Woman's Lib activists at a hot spring resort in Shizuoka prefecture.

The Libbers' conversations are interspersed with rare archival footage of actions launched by the Movement -- mass demonstrations, consciousness-raising musicals and plays, the publication and distribution of fliers, manifestoes, and magazines -- to bring about significant changes in Japanese women's self-perception, thinking, and behavior, as well as in 1960s-1970s Japan's patriarchal, conservative society as a whole.

What emerges from the film's vivid montage of objective retrospective assessment, subjective memories, and highlighting of radical political actions is a fascinating, layered portrayal of a group of committed feminists and women activists, who, three decades after the momentum of Woman's Lib subsided, have lost neither their utopian belief in the power of women's community, creativity, and imagination, nor their will to continue the fight initiated in the 1970s.

Another notable achievement of the film is its highlighting of the cultural specificity of Japan's Women's Liberation Movement; as well as its depiction of the latter as a heterogeneous network of groups, organizations, and individuals motivated by common goals, but whose political orientation, ideological commitments, statements, and actions could be conflicting, puzzling, or paradoxical.

The viewer is offered an inspiring, intimate perspective on Women's Liberation Movement's major role in changing women's status, as well as in paying the way for women's prominent contributions to the culture, arts, and society of contemporary Japan.


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