Japanese Reviews Reviews

Documentary Review: The Witches of the Orient (2021) by Julien Faraut

© UFO Productions
A dynamic and very informative documentary

Among the documentaries in the program of is also “” , which was part of a series of international festivals in the last months. The French filmmaker visits in his film some of members of the legendary Japanese volleyball team.

The Witches of the Orient is screening at Nippon Connection

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The female volleyball team of Nichibo Kaizuka factory was one of the most successful to this day. The members of the team are seventy and eighty years old today. Five of them agreed to tell the story behind their fame. The team advanced to the national team and in the 1960s they set the fantastic record of 258 consecutive victories. They also won the at the Olympic games in 1964. They were such a particular phenomena that the media referred to them as “the Witches of the Orient”.

Director Faraut confronts his protagonists with this nickname. He reunites them around a meal where they exchange their memories. Besides the work at the textile factory, they had hours and hours of training, six of seven days of the week. To push the women to success was the trainer, Daimatsu. And fittingly to the “witches”, he was the “demon”.

The athletes are a symbol for a post war area in which Japan achieves a new self-esteem. It is also a time in which the country starts to consolidate its role on an international level. The fervor, diligence and the sacrifices of the women are a model for the nation, which is willing to work hard for its economic upswing.

Faurat uses several techniques to create a dynamic and very informative documentary. He shows his protagonists with reverence and visible admiration. He mixes found footage material showing the training sessions of the “witches” and the championships, with contemporary images. Volleyball is a popular sport in Japan, more than in other countries. The “witches” are surely one of the reasons for it. It is no coincidence that there are anime on the subject in Japan. And Faurat wisely embeds them into his film.

The strength of “The Witches of the Orient” is its diverse aesthetics. The film is an affectionate portrait and at the same time an important document of an historic era. It also brings back to life some of the heroines from the animated series that shaped our childhood.

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