Documentary Film Reviews – Vol 86, No 3

ANPO, ART X WAR: The Art of Resistance [Film]. Directed and produced by Linda Hoaglund; Cinematography, Yamazaki Yutaka; Editor, Scott Burgess; Music, Satoshi Takeishi, Shoko Nagai. Harriman, NY: New Day Films, 2010. 1 videodisc (89 min.) US$275.00 (Institutions/Universities); US$95.00 (Community Groups/Public Libraries/High Schools); US$80.00 (Rental). ISBN 978-1-56592-479-6. (URL:

Linda Hoaglund’s documentary film ANPO, Art X War: The Art of Resistance is a provocative and thought-provoking examination of the politics and history of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (ANPO) as seen through the eyes of Japanese artists and their depictions of civic protest, the American military presence in the country, and the ordinary Japanese people who have been forced to live with the consequences of this alliance. Make no mistake, this is a film with a very distinct political position: the ANPO is presented as a wholly traumatizing, destructive and negative force in Japan. As New York Times reporter Tim Weiner graphically asserts, the ANPO treaty is the equivalent of a relationship between a “prostitute” and a “pimp.” In the photographs, films, paintings and interviews throughout the documentary we learn how the ANPO has bred animosity toward the US, fueled social unrest and shattered lives. Because of the treaty Japan is apparently still subject to an American occupation which began after its defeat in the Pacific War and continues in the form of military bases dotted throughout the archipelago, especially in Okinawa Prefecture. Ordinary Japanese people are portrayed as victims of the American military and their own government which, as one young artist concludes, has never really been interested in protecting the people.

Hoaglund’s documentary does a marvelous job of presenting the treasure Book Reviews 707 chest of artistic expression–in painting, in photography, and in film–born of the ANPO experience. In the works of painters such as Ishii Shigeo and Nakamura Hiroshi and photographer Hamaya Hiroshi we are transported back to the tumultuous politics and protest of late-1950s and early 1960s Japan, and particularly to the anti-treaty protests of 1960, when hundreds of thousands of Japanese came out to oppose the renewal of this bilateral military agreement. Activists, such as the renowned folk singer Katō Tokiko and the writer Hosaka Masayasu, offer fascinating insights into the complex motivations of protesters at the time: some simply wanted to avoid another war, others hated Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke and wanted him removed, some wanted to “protect democracy,” and yet others wanted the US military out of Japan (or some combination of all these factors). As the writer Handō Kazutoshi recalls, “I hated America.” The documentary skillfully depicts the trauma of the ANPO for these individuals and the ways it found expression in their creative work.

Impressive also is the historical reach of the documentary, which manages to touch on the atomic bombing of Japan (as in Shōmei Tōmatsu’s shocking photographs of A-bomb victims), the impact of the Korean War, 1950s and 1960s protests, and activism against US military bases in Okinawa and elsewhere in the present. The editing and cinematography for the photographs and paintings is simply wonderful, with many absorbing closeups and carefully executed panning shots, clearly the result of meticulous and thoughtful planning by Hoaglund and her crew on the documentary. Combined with the mesmerizing soundtrack, the result is an extremely captivating piece of filmmaking with a gripping atmosphere that kept me absolutely captivated throughout.

Apart from being a terrific documentary in itself, ANPO, Art X War: The Art of Resistance will be a valuable classroom resource for teaching about the links between politics, protest and the evolution of artistic expression in postwar Japan. Given its tight focus on the impact of the security treaty on postwar Japan, educators will certainly need to provide some contextualization for students if they intend to use the film for teaching. Students might benefit, for example, by knowing more about the history behind the ANPO before viewing. For instance, why is such an agreement in place and why has it lasted so long? Hoaglund’s documentary provides some of the answers when it deals with early postwar agreements between Japanese and US elites. But the story is more complex and necessarily involves consideration of Japan’s earlier war in Asia and the many victims of its aggression in the region, which are only mentioned in passing. Indeed, the ANPO also needs to be understood in the wider context of the geo-politics of East Asia, both in terms of Japan’s earlier imperialistic forays into the region and its complicity in postwar US strategies in Vietnam and elsewhere, especially during the Cold War. The film sensitively shows how Japanese people have been negatively affected by the ANPO—in other words, the domestic side of the story—but there is another, just as important story, about the impact of the ANPO on Japan’s relations with other Asian countries in the postwar period. On one level, the ANPO treaty undoubtedly impeded genuine engagement between Japan and its Asian neighbours in the postwar period and it arguably also influenced artists who came to see their country as yet another victim of American “imperialism.” Many seem to have been oblivious to questions of Japan’s historical crimes against other Asian nations and the ways the ANPO tended to shield Japanese people from facing these head-on. This is really the untold story of the ANPO in the documentary and it is such a complicated topic that I can understand why Hoaglu nd chooses to concentrate only on the ANPO within Japan. In my own work on the anti-Vietnam War movement in Japan I came across quite a lot of protest art dealing with the Japan-America- Asia nexus and the country’s complicity in postwar US Cold War policy in Asia, so it seems that at least some artists saw the connection between the ANPO and Asia. The artists Maruki Iri and Toshi, whose work appears in the documentary, have been concerned with Japan’s wartime legacy, for example, with respect to the Nanking massacre. My sense is that there is another documentary waiting to be made about this issue, hopefully by a filmmaker as skilled as Linda Hoaglund.

To return to ANPO, Art X War: The Art of Resistance, however, I thoroughly recommend this film for researchers and for use in the classroom. It is a provocative, though-provoking and skillful examination of an issue which continues to shape modern Japan right through to the present. Moreover, its treatment of important yet little-known (at least outside Japan) painters, photographers and other Japanese artists provides a completely refreshing insight into the US-Japan military alliance.

Simon Avenell, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


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