Taking its name from an alternative reading of the name for the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Kannon, KanZeOn, which can be translated as "she who hears the cries of the world", is an unorthodox but utterly magical meditation on sound and the ritual and philosophical role it plays in Japanese Buddhism. Filmed in Kyushu, the film looks at, and more importantly listens to, three very special Japanese musicans: Akinobu Tatsumi, the young Buddhist priest and custodian of a temple outside of Kumamoto City who moonlights as a hip-hop DJ while indulges his love of beat boxing in the remote forests; Eri Fujii, who has devoted her life to the mastery of the sho, a rare and ancient Chinese bamboo wind instrument evoking the cry of the phoenix, and Akihiro Iitomi, a master of Noh theatre and a kotsuzumi drum player whose love of jazz almost matches that of his passion for Japan’s traditional performing arts.
As a documentary, KanZeOn does not seek to explain as much as to enlighten, taking the viewer on a hypnotic sensual journey from the timeless to the modern by way of a mystical parade of images that resonate seamlessly with the sounds.
About the Filmmakers
Neil Cantwell has studied philosophy and music. He currently works as an Officer for Japanese Studies and Intellectual Exchange at The Japan Foundation London Office, and has ongoing status as Foreign Research Fellow at Shuchiin University, Kyoto.
Tim Grabham is a filmmaker, animater and visual artist who established the independent studio Cinema Iloobia in 2003. As well as his numerous short films, he worked on Suridh Hassan’s documentary about Japanese graffiti culture, RackGaki (2008), which played at last year’s Zipangu Fest. KanZeOn is his first feature-length documentary.
"Stunning to look at… mesmerising musical sequences”
Frances Morgan, Sight and Sound
"A stunning new British documentary.”
Jasper Sharp, Midnight Eye