This article examines Sōda Kazuhiro’s observational documentary, especially his second observational film, Seishin (Mental), and specifically considers its participatory methods, sociohistorical circumstances, and philosophical anthropology. Influenced by North American direct cinema of the 1960s (especially Frederick Wiseman) as well as Bronisław Malinowski’s participant observation, Sōda’s observational style not only emphasizes the self-affective nature of documentary eyes but also rejects the preconceived reality of its object. Documentary is not conceived “in the head”: unexpected discoveries, which inevitably accompany his participatory methods, define his object from an ex ante facto (before the fact) perspective. Examples of this are the contingency of the mental-bodily complex (Seishin) and self-contradictory social situations (Senkyo and Senkyo 2). Because it’s an observationalparticipatory film, Seishin responds to the sociopolitical climates of the late 2000s, especially the Japanese government’s reforms of health and medical services. Specifically, two laws were enacted while the film was in production: the 2005 Support for Independence of Persons with Disability (SIPD) Act and the 2006 Suicide Prevention Act. Furthermore, Seishin represents an anthropological (techno-ontological) standpoint similar to that of Gilbert Simondon, Miki Kiyoshi, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. This article investigates the film’s ontology, externalism, and political critique of neoliberalism in the late 2000s.
Mental (2008): Sōda Kazuhiro’s Observational Cinema
Takushi Odagiri teaches ethics, environmental humanities, and medical humanities at Kanazawa University in Japan. He has earned an MD from the University of Tokyo and a PhD from Stanford University. In 2011–2012, he worked as a medical doctor in eastern Japan, where he was engaged in community mental health and suicide prevention. He has published articles in boundary 2, positions: asia critique, Journal of Religion, Philosophy East and West, Journal of Philosophy and Ethics in Health Care and Medicine, Tetsugaku (Philosophy), and Seimei Rinri (Bioethics).
Takushi Odagiri; Mental (2008): Sōda Kazuhiro’s Observational Cinema. positions 1 May 2020; 28 (2): 277–309. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-8112461
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