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Named after the controversial treaty that allowed U.S. military bases a long-term, ongoing berth on Japanese soil after WWII, “ANPO” explores decades of Nipponese opposition to this occupation via the art it’s inspired. Diverse, often striking examples of that work may prove a revelation to modern-art lovers as glimpsed throughout this solid docu by Japan-raised Yank producer Linda Hoaglund, here making her debut as helmer. Educational tube sales in various territories are likely.

In 1960, long after official occupation by Allied forces had ended, ANPO (which basically extended the Security Treaty of 1951) was rammed through the Japanese legislature despite widespread public disfavor; its opponents were bodily removed from House chambers before the vote. Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, in particular, was excoriated for “selling out” to U.S. interests, and it did not escape notice he’d been among the very few high-ranking officials unpunished for war crimes, despite having been a primary architect of Japan’s WWII entry. Public protests were widespread, including sometimes violent clashes with police. Those events are revisited here partly in footage shot at the time by the docu’s own cinematographer, Yamazaki Yutaka (“Nobody Knows”).

The agreement made Japan a key if passive player in the Vietnam War, as it had been in the Korean War. Ongoing complaints have included the jarring presence of military tests and training maneuvers near civilian areas, as well as heightened prostitution and petty crime in the vicinity of foreign service bases. Occasionally a single incident provokeds national outrage, as when a 12 year-old local girl was raped by three American soldiers on heavily militarized isle Okinawa.

While lay people are interviewed on the subject, ranging from 1945 A-bomb survivors to distressed latter-day base neighbors, pic’s most fascinating element is its emphasis on the visual art these issues have inspired. With some 30 artists represented, working in media from traditional canvases to manga and film, there’s a wealth of very striking imagery reflecting a broad range of Eastern and Western stylistic influences.

Tech aspects are pro.

ANPO: Art X War

Japan-U.S.

  • Production: An ANPO Movie production. (International sales: ANPO, Brooklyn.) Produced by Linda Hoaglund. Executive producer, Betty Hoaglund. Directed, written by Linda Hoaglund.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Yamazaki Yutaka; editor, Scott Burgess; music, Sateshi Takeishi, Shoko Nagai; sound, Scott Lehrer. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Real to Reel), Sept. 11, 2010. Running time: 89 MIN.
  • With: With: Ishiuchi Miyako, Nakamura Hiroshi, Yokoo Tadanori, Aida Makoto, Asakura Setsu. (Japanese dialogue.)
  • Music By: