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They would look at rushes or rough cuts, analyzing what they saw and debating in highly technical terms. What was the cameraman thinking when he made that shot? Why use that lens? What kinds of meanings are produced by the cameraman’s pan at that particular moment? How could a certain scene be re-edited? What would happen if the editor put these two shots together? The discussions were spirited, contentious, and alcohol-driven. In an interview with Kato Takanobu, also known as “the Last Ogawa Pro Member,” cameraman Otsu Koshiro described the atmosphere: We would draw on topics like Eisenstein’s collision montage theory for our discussions.

Building room to maneuver within the structure of what was essentially a PR firm, the managers allowed their filmmakers the (relative) freedom to stretch the limits of the PR film. Ironically enough, however, Iwanami’s biggest contribution to postwar cinema came from when its best filmmakers quit to make many of the great independent films of the 1960s, both fiction and documentary. Ogawa was among this group. A key factor in this scenario was one of the most unusual research groups in the history of documentary, Iwanami’s Blue Group (Ao no Kai).

Sakuma Dam and Nishio Zensuke’s Kurobe Valley (Kurobe keikoku, 1957) thrilled people with their twist on the “man against nature” theme. Rather than a Japanese Nanook battling a seal, they pitched construction workers and their machines against natural formations being transformed by massive public works projects. The war receded to the past in these films filled with images of prosperity and growth. Ise Chonosuke’s Karakoram (1956) even removed spectators from Japan by following a Japanese research team to the Himalayas.

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