After the last month or so focusing on various streaming services, I’ve decided to do another country-themed week. As it happens, I’ve not yet covered Japan, although Japanese films have popped up frequently, not least because I’ve been watching quite a few recently. My Japanese written exam is next week, so it feels like a good time to be focusing on Japanese culture (even if watching lots of Japanese films isn’t necessarily helping me learn the language). I’ve got plenty to choose from, but I’ll start the week with this documentary I saw in-flight last month, almost an eternity ago now.
This director seems to have made a career making documentaries about the Japanese fermented rice wine sake, but I guess there’s a lot to say about this subject. Sake feels like one of those drinks (like, say, vermouth or sherry) which is staging a small comeback as something of a refined and interesting beverage that more people are starting to learn about and appreciate, and we certainly see a network of sake bars and drinkers in this film. It uses the structure of focusing on three women who have become integral to the developing sake scene, two of them Japanese — one working as a brewer and another running a sake bar — and the third a New Zealander, an expert who also runs festivals and promotion for the drink around the world as a sort of brand ambassador I suppose. Given that most of us — well certainly me — will have little knowledge about the drink, it is interesting to see sake being made, even if there’s very little context or explanation for what we see happening in the breweries (they are doing something with rice which eventually makes a drink). It’s also slightly frustrating to watch people drink and gush over a beverage that you can only see and not taste, but it has undoubtedly deepened my resolve to visit Japan at some point, if that someday becomes an option again.
Director/Writer Mirai Konishi 小西未来; Cinematographers Masami Inamoto 猪本雅三 and Konishi; Length 84 minutes.
Seen on a flight from Adelaide to Singapore, Friday 13 March 2020.