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.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Review by Kay Nguyen-Le '07, Grinnell College

I took a literature class with Miho in Grinnell last fall (Japanese Modern Films & Fictions) and have been fascinated with all the readings. Apparently Japanese contemporary issues such as labor, class, gender have inspired such artistically accomplished works and I want to know more about that. It was at first a curiosity that prompted me to take the class, but afterward I came to truly embrace this dynamic culture in a thorough, direct and active way, because what I learn helps me enormously in my thinking and writing. Therefore , when Miho told me about the “30 years of Sisterhood” project in which I can participate and experience first hand the spirit of activism in Japan, I jumped at the opportunity to help her with the hosting task. In some way, I feel honored that Grinnell is among the hosts for these powerful women and that Grinnell can be a good host for them. Grinnell College is a little liberal arts college in a little Iowan town, one hour East from the capital Des Moines. Blessed with bountiful resources and a long tradition of social activism, Grinnell offers its student body of less than 1,600 excellent opportunities to celebrate campus diversity. The first college in the Midwest to admit women, Grinnell now has various thriving multicultural groups such as the the International Student Organization (ISO), the Feminist Action Coaliation (FAC), the Asian Students Assocciation (ASIA), the Stonewall Resource Center (StoneCo) for the GLBT community, and most recently, we welcome a new publication on multicultural issues called the Salad. With much excitement for the well organized tour, we watched “30 Years of Sisterhood” in advance and it struck me as intimate and endearing. Each of the women takes turn telling their own story, but in such a personal way that history becomes vivid and full of life right in front of me. I like the flow, naturally introducing all the libbers, then the stories in their own words, sandwiched with telling flashbacks about the sizzling days of the revolution. What is interesting to know is the political identity of the Women’s Liberation Movement itself, as separate from even the most radical movements of the time such as the student leftist movement. I’m very much empowered by the images of the libbers still continue living out their own belief after all this time, forming an inspiring bond of sisterhood. The realistic mood of the film also prompts several questions and reflections that I’d love to discuss with these women once they’re on campus, such as the resources they drew on to organize such fantastic liberation camps, or the inspiration and method of their publication enterprises. Overall, I’m surprised with how the directors could use conventional documentary film language in such a different and refreshing way to portray these women. The whole film feels like a dear walk down the memory lane, full of hopes and enthusiasm to pass on to the younger generation of female activists. Such raw energy is hard to come across these days when feminist activism seems contrite or out of fashion. I’m really excited to meet with these relentless freedom fighters!

*My name is Kay Nguyen-Le. I'm a third year art history major from Saigon, Vietnam. Last year I took a year off to work on an independent film project as screenwriter and assistant to the director. The film, "1735 km", is a coming of age romantic comedy of two young people travelling across Vietnam. I'm currently working on a screenplay about the quest for the lunar new year spririt in a household. I love thick books and strawberry pocky sticks.

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