Documentarist Soda Kazuhiro looks more and more like a Japanese answer to Frederick Wiseman. He’s a little more engaged than Wiseman (you’ll hear him asking the occasional question from off-screen) but his generally self-effacing approach is similarly designed to reveal how systems function and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. The sixth in his excellent “Observational” series shows us everything there is to know about catching, shucking and selling oysters, but its interest goes beyond molluscs.
Filming in coastal villages north of Okayama, he finds the small oyster factories imperilled. Despite a recent influx of fishermen from Fukushima (refugees from the tsunami), there’s a serious and growing shortage of labour—largely because the next generation doesn’t want to inherit or run the businesses. The solution: import labour from China. Soda’s focus gradually shifts from oysters to Sino-Japanese relations, and the final segment of his film shows the arrival and induction of two hard-working temps from China.
— Tony Rayns