Conveyed through a series of micro-narratives, “Chiyo” explores the Japanese suburbs through the filmmaker’s reflection on the life of her grandmother. Intertwining interviews, footage from festivals and the struggle of the grandmother in everyday tasks, resulting from physical limitations, the project offers an intimate view on family.
“Chiyo” is a rather interesting and engaging project from Chiemi Shimada (who we got a chance to interview in regards to this project). The production is built on the concept of ‘micro-narratives’, and purposely blurring the lines between cinema and video art. Within this format, it becomes difficult to offer much critique on structure or analogy of it’s effectiveness to convey a narrative. However, there are many aspects of the production that are particularly praise worthy.
The production certainly carries a poetic beauty to it in visual execution, with the actual production being shot on 16 mm and later transferred to High Definition. This method has proved troublesome on many productions, with a final product that seems like attempting to cater to nostalgia. However, Shimada’s approach obtains a high quality, and even the mundane looks rather stunning within the transfer. It seems that visual consideration was at the forefront, and in this regard, the production succeeds at embodying both visual flair and intimacy with the subject through the lo-fi approach.
The narrative, which follows Shimada’s grandmother, is of a personal nature, and relies heavily on her understanding of that relationship through short interviews and footage of local life. Shimada is able to transcend the personalized subtext of the narrative by offering open interpretation through imagery. The interviews may be very matter of fact, but the focus is often on the surroundings combining the words of her grandmother within the community. This approach gives the message a universal feeling, as the visual focus equates to the universal sense of the ‘wandering eye’, and just being caught up in the moment. Overall, the actual spoken dialogue may not connect with the audience but the visual approach captures the action of daily life with great beauty that will resonate with them
“Chiyo” is a delicately balanced film, an intimate portrait conveyed through imagery and emotion. The approach and concept behind the film definitely will limit its appeal, as (not to sound exclusionary) does require the audience to have some familiarity with ‘arthouse’ cinema. Ultimately, the random images come and go without much context, and if you can’t get caught in the beauty of the display of imagery, the production will offer you no substance. Fans of arthouse cinema and those who welcome exploration in the definition of visual art, will likely fall in love with this charming short film.