I'm going to put out a quick post for anyone who has already seen the film and is ready for some discussion. I'm not going to talk about the plot, cultural context or technical aspects here, so I'm hoping this won't inadvertently pre-empt anything girish is working on. Chris and/or girish, I’m assuming that the selector of the film will be in charge of leading the main discussion and providing the plot rundown? In the meantime, if anyone not watching the film or having seen it years ago needs a fairly spoiler-free intro, I have a review from last October.
Anyway, I’m going to throw out some questions from that review and a couple other related thoughts. Sorry if this is a rehash of documentary objectivity debates you’re already sick of.
"The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On" raises some interesting questions about the genre itself. Can the filmmaker ever really be just an observer and recorder? Certainly his mere presence has an effect: it is used by Okuzaki to manipulate his interviewees into making his visits seem more official, but it also discourages them from revealing their secrets. Does Hara’s choice of subject (which he was dedicated enough to that he followed him over several years) imply that he agrees with, supports or identifies with Okuzaki? Does the filmmaker have an obligation to help his subject by providing money, information or comfort? Is he obligated to interfere when he witnesses crimes or unethical behavior, as when Okuzaki is beating up other people?
Should all documentaries have a message? What would a neutral film be like? Does the passion and commitment it takes to create a documentary necessarily compromise its objectivity?