Kinema Club XIII

Kinema Club XIII focuses on four moments in the history of film and media in Japan, centered around the years 1927, 1962, 1995, and, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, 1973. Additional panels are being presented on 1936 and 1939.

The concept is therefore somewhat different from previous Kinema Clubs. By focusing respective sessions on specific years, we will be able to recognize momentary and shifting constellations rather than linear trajectories. Rather than a consistent narrative, we gain insights into what Harry Harootunian has, in reference to Ernst Bloch, called “noncontemporaneous contemporaneity“. Such constellations can include relations across different genres, distribution networks, or media platforms at a given historical moment. It will allow recognizing what we might call contradictory coherences of aesthetic, social, and political history. This is less an argument for a certain kind of historiography than a proposal to rethink our established ways of approaching history with regard to film and moving image media from Japan.

For this we have tentatively selected the above three years (1927, 1962/63, and 1995) that are often regarded, for different reasons, as transitional. This selection stands with the full understanding that the idea of transitional moments is itself subject to debate. This, we hope, will also be part of the discussions at the conference.

What is Kinema Club? 

Kinema Club is an informal community of scholars, artists, and fans interested in Japanese moving image media established in the early 1990s. A group that Initially formed for informally swapping Xeroxes of tables of content from Japanese film journals eventually established a newsgroup called KineJapan, which instantly grew to 50 names. KineJapan now has over 600 participants from every part of the world. 

From this description you might gather than Kinema Club is more an idea than a group. The idea is that Kinema Club provides a rubric within which anything is possible. No one owns it. Anyone can take it and do something creative with it. We have no dues (and no budget or bank account). No system of introductions. No office. It is amorphous, even anarchic, but it has definitely played an important role in networking all the scholars, programmers and fans interested in Japanese cinema. 

One of the most important activities has been our workshops and conferences. At the end of the 1990s, the study of Japanese cinema was undergoing some interesting transformations. Most notably, it was becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. To confront these changes head-on, an intimate workshop was held at the University of Michigan in 1999. One thing became immediately evident: although there were many students and professors studying Japanese film and television, no one really knew each other. KineJapan already had over 200 members at that point, but few people had met face to face. So subsequent workshops and conferences were held in Hawai'i (2003), NYU (2004), McGill (2004), Tokyo (2005), NYU (2005), Yale (2006), Frankfurt (2007), Harvard (2009), Hawai'i (2010), Vienna (2011) and Yale (2012). The programs for many of these conferences are on the archives section of the Kinema Club website: