Open City Documentary Festival

across London
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An Engineer’s Assistant + On the Road: A Document

An Engineer’s Assistant ある機関助士

Tsuchimoto Noriaki | 1963 | Japan | 37’ | 35mm | Japanese spoken, English subtitles

Alongside other documentary filmmakers of his generation, Tsuchimoto started by making public relations and educational films. Working within the conventions of corporate filmmaking, he was nonetheless able to bring his own voice, innovation and politics into the films.

In 1962, the Japanese National Railways (JNR) imposed intensified labour schedules as a response to railway congestion due to the transport of materials and deployment of the Shinkansen fast train in preparation for the 1964 Olympic Games. In May of that same year, a train crash killed 160 people. In order to wipe away the bad impression caused by this accident, the JNR commissioned An Engineer’s Assistant. Shot with great craft and skill, this PR exercise depicts the hard work these men were undertaking to keep the trains running on time, thus providing a critical analysis of the poor labour conditions they were subjected to.


On the Road: A Document ドキュメント路上

Tsuchimoto Noriaki | 1964 | Japan | 54’ | 35mm | Japanese spoken, English subtitles

On the Road: A Document was originally commissioned by the traffic division of Japan’s police administration, but Tsuchimoto used this opportunity to collaborate with the taxi drivers’ unions. A riveting and original city symphony centred on a taxi driver, this is ultimately a portrait of labour conditions, traffic, and about the unhealthy living conditions in Tokyo in a moment of urban renewal. The film was later recognised as one of the great documentaries made of this rapidly shifting society. In its dynamic and inventive attention to detail and sound, the film was not what the sponsors anticipated, and it was never publicly released.


With an introduction by Julian Ross