University of Sussex
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Migration, traces and the poetics of delay: exploring filmic forms to represent the Jewish migrational past of Kobe, Japan

posted on 2023-06-09, 14:03 authored by Takahiro Kida
This project concerns a Jewish community in the city of Kobe, Japan and its condition of memory/history. It attempts to create a film of this condition. The project consists of a written thesis and a 40min film. The written thesis describes the process of developing a creative strategy for the film. There are already many films which choose migration as a subject. And because of the loose meaning of migration, different kind of topics are and can be labeled under migration. In this project, I attempt to make a film which is intrinsic to this case. My research process starts with fieldwork to understand this Jewish community. Through a 10 month period of fieldwork mainly in Kobe, Japan, I discovered the incompleteness of history or memory in this Jewish community. In other words, the fragility of their history and collective memory in this place. I set the research question for this project as: ‘what kind of filmic form can respond to this incomplete memory/history condition?’ To address this research question, I first examine this fragility of memory and history through an interdisciplinary set of references, such as migration studies, memory studies, and urban studies. I argue that ‘trace’ is a useful concept in accessing a past, in spite of the incompleteness of history/memory in this place. I also conceptualize the idea of a geographical trace seeking to understand the nature of migrational traces. I then move on to discussing how the idea of a material trace is not sufficient to adequately attend to this memory/history condition of the Jewish community in Kobe. I first paid attention to existing material traces such as the synagogue, but there is a limit to this approach since much has disappeared. These traces of the community that still exist and the invisible traces that don’t anymore form a temporal layer of the city. Also, some of the traces were dispersed and located in other places, such as New York City and Washington, D.C. in the USA. These traces were also invisible in a sense that they are out of the purview from Kobe. The traces located in Kobe and found in New York City and Washington, D.C. form a geographical layer mediated by the experience of migration. Based on this field examination, and also engaging with a corpus of films, documentary theory, and discussions in visual anthropology, I propose what I call a poetics of delay. This poetics of delay seeks to employ cinematic means to translate the condition of history/memory of the Jewish community in Kobe with its gaps and forms of invisibility. I argue that this poetics of delay can communicate the partiality and invisibility of the past through sustaining a literal delay in seeing and knowing within the viewer’s experience. The aim of the film is not to provide an undisputed historical narrative of the Jewish community, though it does reflect on that history. Rather, it attempts to represent the difficulty of retrieving history and recovering memory through the medium of documentary film.


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  • Media and Film Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • phd


  • eng


University of Sussex

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