Heta Village (1973) is Shinsuke Ogawa’s sixth entry to his Narita series, filmed between 1967 and 1977, about the struggles occurred in Narita to protest the impending demolition of the village to make way for an airport. It differs a lot in style from the fourth installment, The Peasants of the Second Fortress (1971): The latter shows directly the confrontation between the people and the riot police, while the former is much more lyrical for showing carefully conducted Buddhist and traditional ceremonies, besides the stories of many dwellers from the titular village (an old woman who almost got killed by her husband in her 20’s, the relocation of a graveyard caused by the government’s destruction of an ancient burial ground). That different perception of reality reminds one of Ogawa’s later A Japanese Village – Furuyashikimura (1982), more preoccupied too with anthropological matters and the connection between man and nature (In the 1973 production, the pro-airport families left their land, and the relation becomes evident with the quote “When the farmers see these fields… It makes them feel as if their flesh is rotting”). But Heta Village continues the main story, even if in a new way from Peasants: the conflict is presented only by its effects to the people. One of the most important “subplots” involves the unjust arrest of some of the denizens’ sons for the death of three policemen – who not even died in action – and Ogawa with his team show the aftermath of the event until the youths get back from prison, 90 days later. During the festival, a father from one of these young men rises and state what might sum up the admirable (although at times violent) determination of the villagers: “Even though they have been arrested, their spirits have not been imprisoned” . Magnificent."
by Cedric Alexander