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Julien Faraut • Director de Les Sorcières de l'Orient

"Mujeres capaces de hacer muchos sacrificios, de trabajar muy duro para ser las mejores"


- El documentalista francés habla de su nuevo trabajo, donde sigue a un invencible equipo de voleibol femenino japonés

Julien Faraut  • Director de Les Sorcières de l'Orient

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

After focusing on John McEnroe at Roland-Garros by way of In the Realm of Perfection [+lee también:
ficha de la película
, French documentary-maker Julien Faraut is now charting the rise of an exceptional Japanese women’s volleyball team in The Witches of the Orient [+lee también:
entrevista: Julien Faraut
ficha de la película
, which was unveiled in Rotterdam and released in French cinemas on 28 July courtesy of its producer UFO.

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Cineuropa: You work in the archives department of INSEP (French National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance) and that’s where you discovered images of this Japanese women’s volleyball team. Why did you decide to make a film about it?
Julien Faraut
: The Tokyo Olympic Games were definitely one of the reasons why I though this project might do well. But I’d had it in mind for ten or so years; I experimented a little bit, combining archive photos of training sessions with cartoons, and I was surprised by how visually similar they were. Lots of people my age were familiar with the Japanese cartoon Attacker You! which was a huge hit with audiences at the end of the 1980s, but no-one knew about the story which had inspired this whole series of mangas. But it was the archive images which struck me the most, and those showing these volleyball players training made me want to know more about them. When I learned that this national team was composed of players who lived and worked together in a textile factory, it felt like the elements for a good film were starting to come together. Not long afterwards, I also came across The Price of Victory, an extraordinary Japanese documentary in colour. This meant that I had all the material I needed, and the project boasted a sufficient dose of originality and interesting elements.

The intensity of the training embarked upon by this team who proved invincible between 1960 and 1966 (boasting 258 consecutive victories) is unbelievable.
For years, people had been saying that films needed to be made about women’s sport, and in the context of the #MeToo movement, I thought it would be interesting to tackle this complex subject, because when I looked at newspapers from the 1960s, I was surprised to see that Westerners saw the team’s coach Daimatsu as a torturer, a "demon" who allegedly had a hold over these players who were said to be victims of the system. Something didn’t add up in my mind and given that I worked at INSEP and that I was in contact with high-level female athletes, I decided I should ask the players about it directly; in other words, track them down and see how they were doing. I could see that they hadn’t been destroyed either physically or psychologically, that they were doing really well and that several of them still played volleyball, which is quite rare in high-level sport, generally speaking, because lots of people stop practicing their sport once they’re no longer competing. I swiftly realised that I was dealing with real champions, women capable of making lots of sacrifices, of working very hard in order to be the best. It’s shocking when you see them on the verge of exhaustion, but they were pioneers of high-level sports culture. And that’s without taking into account the complexity, or even the ambiguity, of the context, because most players hadn’t had a father in post-Second-World-War Japan. That’s also one of the reasons I gave the players the opportunity to tell their own stories, because I didn’t want to add my comments to other comments. These players were very Japanese: they agreed to follow their coach, but they knew what they were doing… They were champions.

So you had the subject, the sports journey, the cartoon form and the players’ testimonials. What about the additional, historical idea of Japanese reconstruction?
It’s all interconnected, because before becoming a national team, they were a textile factory team. In Japan, high-level sport is often supported and organised by businesses, and the textile industry was one of the jewels in the crown of the Japanese economy before synthetic fibres came onto the scene. The textile sector began developing a high-level post-war sports industry at a time when there were only a handful of universities to compete with in women’s volleyball. The 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo were quickly seen as a way for Japan to find its way back into the community of nations, to show that the country had changed, that it had rebuilt itself. And this women’s volleyball team was a wonderful surprise, the cherry on the cake. As for the “weeble” Daruma - the team’s secret weapon who helped the players to grow more rapidly - he was a perfect symbol of this new Japan, which was able to get back on its feet at top speed.

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(Traducción del francés)

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