Tsuchimoto Noriaki |1969 | Japan | 120’| 16mm (video transfer) | Japanese spoken, English subtitles
Pre-history of the Partisans is one of the most extraordinary films about the student struggles taking place globally at the end of the 1960s. In 1969, Tsuchimoto (together with members of Ogawa Productions) had access to a self-organised group of students barricaded inside the Kyodai University in Kyoto. Tsuchimoto was critical of the sectarian conflict that divided the various leftist student groups, but at the same time was interested in their ability to organise, and willingness to act autonomously. The film, a direct-cinema masterpiece that would be a turning point in Tsuchimoto’s own method of working, documents in detail the discussions between the members of the group as they organise and discuss their ideas, define their tactics, prepare their fight, build barricades, and seek ways to broaden their struggle to overthrow not only academic authority but society as a whole.
“This film is perhaps the best documentary made, anywhere, about the student protests of the 1960s. Tsuchimoto was the only filmmaker or journalist allowed to witness the secret workings of an ultra-radical splinter group at the prestigious Kyoto University (alma mater of Oshima Nagisa). As Ogawa has done in Forest of Pressure, Tsuchimoto virtually lived with his subjects during the course of the shoot. Tsuchimoto, however, emerges as more even-handed than Ogawa toward his subjects, more dispassionate as a filmmaker. This is probably a function of the Partisan group’s overt desire for direct, violent confrontation with the authorities. While Tsuchimoto himself does not necessarily share his subjects’ views on the efficacy of violence, he does convey the honesty and intensity of the group members themselves.”
— David Desser