Tokyo, 19 October 1926.
Graduated from Jiyu Gakuen, Tokyo.
Married actress Sachiko Hidari, 1960.
Began working for Kyoto News Agency, 1945; joined Iwanami Eiga production
company, initially as still photographer, 1950; directed first film, 1952;
producer, writer and director for TV, from 1959; formed Hani productions,
First Prize (educational short), Venice Festival, and First Prize (short
film), Cannes Festival, for
Children Who Draw
, 1955; Special Jury Prize for Best Direction, Moscow festival, for
Children Hand in Hand
Films as Director:
Seikatsu to mizu ( Water in Our Life ) (co-d, co-sc) Yuki matsuri ( Snow Festival ) (+ sc)
Machi to gesui ( The Town and Its Drains ) (+ sc)
Anata no biru ( Your Beer ) (+ sc); Kyoshitsu no kodomotachi ( Children in the Classroom ) (+ sc)
Eo kaku kodomotachi ( Children Who Draw ) (+ sc)
Group no shido ( Group Instruction ) (+ sc); Soseiji gakkyu ( Twin Sisters ) (+ sc); Dobutsuen nikki ( Zoo Story ) (feature) (+ sc)
Shiga Naoya (+ sc); Horyu-ji ( Horyu Temple ) (+ sc); Umi wa ikiteiru ( The Living Sea ) (feature) (+ sc); Nihon no buyo ( Dances in Japan ) (+ sc): Tokyo 1958 (co-d, co-sc, co-ed)
Furyo shonen ( Bad Boys )
Mitasareta seikatsu ( A Full Life ) (+ co-sc): Te o tsunagu kora ( Children Hand in Hand )
Kanojo to kare ( She and He ) (+ co-sc)
Bwana Toshi no uta ( The Song of Bwana Toshi ) (+ co-sc)
Andesu no hanayome ( Bride of the Andes ) (+ sc)
Hatsuoki jig ok uhen ( Inferno of First Love ; Nanami: Inferno of First Love ) (+ co-sc)
Aido ( Aido, Slave of Love )
Mio (+ sc, co-ed)
Gozenchu no jikanwari ( Timetable ; Morning Schedule ) (+ co-sc)
Afurika monogatari ( A Tale of Africa ) (co-d)
By HANI: books—
Engishinai shuyakutachi [The Leading Players Who Do Not Act, The
Non-professional Actor], 1958.
Camera to maiku no ronri [Aesthetics of Camera and Microphone], 1960.
Afurika konnan ryoko [My Travels in Africa, Report about Film Making in Africa], 1965.
Andes ryoko [Travels in the Andes, Report About Film Making in the Andes], 1966.
By HANI: articles—
Interview with James Blue, in Film Comment (New York), Spring 1969.
"En préparant Mio," in Ecran (Paris), July/August 1972.
"Susumu Hani: a decouvrir avec Bwana Toshi ," interview with A. Tournès, in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), April/May 1979.
On HANI: books—
Mellen, Joan, Voices from the Japanese Cinema , New York, 1975.
Sato, Tadao, Currents in Japanese Cinema , Tokyo, 1982.
Richie, Donald, Japanese Cinema: An Introduction , New York, 1990.
Davis, Darrell William, Picturing Japaneseness: Monumental Style, National Identity, Japanese Film (Film and Culture) , New York, 1995.
On HANI: article—
"Susumu Hani," in Film Dope (London), September 1981.
* * *
Susumu Hani was born in Tokyo in 1928, the son of a famous liberal family. After schooling, he worked for a while as a journalist at Kyoto Press and entered filmmaking as a documentarist in 1950 when he joined Iwanami Productions. Most of his later dramatic features reflect his early documentary training, relying on authentic locations, amateur actors, hand-held camera techniques, and an emphasis upon contemporary social issues.
His film career comprises three areas: documentary films; narratives relating to social problems, especially among the young; and dramas focusing on the emerging woman. Of the 18 documentaries made between 1952 and 1960, the best known are Children in the Classroom and Children Who Draw Pictures. The latter won the 1957 Robert Flaherty Award.
Hani's first dramatic feature, Bad Boys , further develops many of his previous concerns. The film, a loose series of situations about reform school, was enacted by former inmates who improvised dialogue. For Hani, truth emerges from the juxtaposition of fiction and fact. He also believes that all people have an innate capacity for acting. Subsequent films, which deal with the effect of post-war urban realities on the lives of the young, include Children Hand in Hand and Inferno of First Love. The former depicts young children in a provincial town and especially one backward child who becomes the butt of the other children's malicious teasing and pranks; the latter is a story of two adolescents in modern Tokyo, each of whom has been exploited, who find with each other a short-lived refuge.
Like his earlier documentaries, these films explore themes relating to broken homes, the alienation of modern society, the traumatic effects of childhood, the oppressiveness of a feudal value system, and the difficulty of escaping, even in an alternative social structure. To all these films Hani brings a deep psychological understanding of the workings of the human psyche. Finally, each of these films focuses on individual growth and self-awakening, although Hani is clear to indicate that the problems cannot be solved on a personal level. Both topics—growing self-awareness and a critique of the existing social order—connect these works with Hani's second major theme, the emergence of women.
Hani's first film on this subject was A Full Life , which deals with the efforts of a young wife, married to a self-involved older man, to forge a life of her own in the competitive world of modern Tokyo. After demeaning work and involvement in the student demonstrations of the early 1960s, the wife returns home, a changed woman.
Hani's other films on this topic are She and He , the depiction of a middle-class marriage in which the wife gains independence by her kindness to a local ragpicker, and Bride of the Andes , the story of a mail-order Japanese bride in Peru who finds personal growth through her relationship with South American Indians. As in A Full Life , none of these women are able to make a full break with their husbands. However, through personal growth (usually affected by contact with a group or person marginal to society), they are able to challenge the patriarchal values of Japanese society as represented by their husbands and to return to the relationship with new understanding and dignity. Both films starred Sachiko Hidari, who was then his wife.
Contact with a non-Japanese society and challenging Japanese xenophobia also occur in The Song of Bwana Toshi , which was filmed in Kenya and deals with Toshi, an ordinary Japanese man living in Central Africa. Here he cooperates with natives and rises above his isolation to establish brotherhood with foreigners.
Hani's subsequent work, Timetable , combines his interest in contemporary youth with his continued interest in modern women. The story deals with two high school girls who decide to take a trip together. The fiction feature, which is narrated, was filmed in 8mm and each of the major actors was allowed to shoot part of the film. Further, the audience is informed of who is shooting, thereby acknowledging the filmmaker within the context of the work. The use of 8mm is not new for Hani. More than half of his fourth film was originally shot in 8mm. Likewise, the use of a narrator dates back to A Full Life. Throughout his career, Hani has concerned himself with people who have difficulty in communicating with one another. His documentaries, narratives on social problems, and dramas on emerging women have established his reputation as one of the foremost psychologists of the Japanese cinema.