As far as documentaries go, The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years without Images wields a quite unwieldy title and a highly conceptual premise, only to smartly defuse it: it's a disarmingly accessible and fascinating film, part of the current strand of so called documentaires de création that apply experimental narrative frameworks and visual textures to standard documentary subjects. In this case, American-raised, French-born multimedia artist Éric Baudelaire delves into the troubling memories of two people involved with infamous 1970s Japanese radical activists the Japanese Red Army to create a poignant discourse on the loss of one's personal life involved in committing to a cause.

     Mr. Baudelaire juxtaposes the personal and the political in order to grasp an approximation of the price you pay for joining an activist group, by separating sound and image. The pictures are mostly newly-shot images of Tokyo and Beyrouth, while the story is told in voiceover by the two protagonists who actually lived through it: May Shigenobu, the daughter of Japanese Red Army leader Fusako, who grew up on the run and lived clandestinely for 27 years until her mother was apprehended by the Japanese police, and Masao Adachi, art-house filmmaker and collaborator to Nagisa Oshima and Koji Wakamatsu who abandoned his career to become spokesman and cameraman for the group. There are no pictures of Ms. Shigenobu for the first 27 years of her life, while Mr. Adachi's treasure trove of footage was destroyed in a bombardment. Therefore, the juxtaposition of the duo's memories with Mr. Baudelaire's fake period footage leads The Anabasis of May and Fusako... into a dreamy, hypnotic meditation on memory and storytelling, opening up a self-referential hall of mirrors where the absence of any visual proof and the need to rely on the survivors' memories cast a playful yet serious shadow over things we usually take for granted. An engrossing, enveloping exercise.

Director, producer, writer, cameraman: Éric Baudelaire (colour, processing by Retro Enterprises)
Sound: Diego Eiguchi, Philippe Welsh
Editors: Mr. Baudelaire, Laure Vermeersch, Minori Akimoto
France, 2012, 66 minutes

Screened: DocLisboa 2012 official competition advance screener, Lisbon, October 13th 2012


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