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The Witches of the Orient

December 11, 2021

The Witches of the Orient

(Dir. Julien Faraut, 2021)

Director Julien Faraut and composer Jason Lytle (Grandaddy) in person!
Screening to be followed by a Q&A and a reception in the 2220 lounge.


7:00 PM


7:30 PM


2220 Arts + Archives
2220 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057

Yanai Initiative logo_edited.jpg
Yanai Initiative logo_edited.jpg

Co-presented by MUBI, UniFrance, and the Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities.

How did a group of humble factory workers become a phenomenal sports  success story and the pride of an entire nation? Julian Faraut’s (John McEnroe: In The Realm of Perfection) ferociously innovative and visually stunning The Witches of the Orient tells the tale of the Japanese women’s volleyball team’s thrilling  rise, unbelievable 258 games winning streak, and eventual Olympic gold  at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

United  by their jobs in a textile factory, the Japanese women’s volleyball  team chased absolute perfection under the guidance of their grueling  coach Hirofumi Daimatsu. His methods were so tough that in Japan, he was  known as “the Demon,” with his intense, endless practice sessions,   shaping the team into a force to be reckoned with. While the west  viewed Japan as an alien upstart in the postwar years, it didn’t prevent  the team from striking fear in the hearts of their competitors, earning  them the racist and dismissive moniker “oriental witches.” Less an  underdog tale than a saga of overwhelming determination that  simultaneously subverts and feeds an orientalized mystique, The Witches of the Orient conjures the tenor and tone of the team’s grip on the imagination of an  entire nation seeking renewal and acceptance on the world stage of the  post-war era.

Faraut’s sparkling documentary uses fantastic manga and anime sequences, such as Attack no 1 (1968),  with archival footage of blood-curdling matches, intense training  sessions (driven by rhythmic editing and great music from French  musician K-Raw, as well as two original songs by Grandaddy's Jason  Lytle) with testimony from the now-octogenarian teammates. The result  charts the Witches’ meteoric rise without losing their overwhelmingly  vital spirit. The joy of the Witches’ success is infectious and offers a  hopeful prelude to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.

*All  pre-order ticket buyers will be entered to win a limited edition vinyl release of Lytle's two original songs from the film. Five copies will be  raffled off the night of the screening. Pre-order above.

Elegantly restores the glow of legend, saving the champions the trouble of having to explain their heroism in words.

- Teo Bugbee, The New York Times

Not  only offers a fresh approach to documentary style but also draws out  the tension between reality and artifice, private and public memory.

- Phoung Le, The Guardian

More  than presenting the mere facts of history, the film explores how a  series of events can capture the attention of a culture at large, and  what that means for the people at its center.

- Dan Schindel, Hyperallergic

This  is one of those documentaries that does what historical documentaries  should do: it takes a monumental achievement that the viewer might not  know about and gives it the presentation and love it deserves.

- Sean Fallon, Film Inquiry

Fusing  exquisitely shot color 16mm footage from 1964 of the team's training  sessions, drone-like music and splices of animation, we get a delirious  sense of what these committed women endured six out of seven days a  week.

- Robert Abele, The Los Angeles Times

(Available to download after screening date)

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