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Kazuhiro SODA

想田 和弘


Director, screenwriter, cinematographer, producer, author

Kazuhiro SODA practices an observational method of documentary filmmaking based on his own "Ten Commandments" which prohibits him from doing pre-shoot research or writing a synopsis before filming. He imposes these rules on himself in order to minimize preconceptions and to be able to make unexpected discoveries while filming and editing.


His debut feature documentary Campaign (2007, Observational Film #1) was invited to many prestigious festivals such as Berlin International Film Festival and was aired in nearly 200 countries and territories around the world. It won the Peabody Award in the U.S.


Mental (2008, Observational Film #2) won numerous awards including the Best Documentary Award at the Busan International Film Festival and the Dubai International Film Festival.


Peace (2010, Observational Film Extra), the opening film of DMZ Documentary Festival, won the Best Documentary Award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Tokyo Filmex.


Theatre 1 and Theatre 2 (2012, Observational Film #3 and #4) won the Young Juries Prize at the Festival des 3 Continents.


Campaign 2 (2013, Observational Film #5) has been invited to such festivals as Cinema du Reel, Hong Kong International Film Festival, and MoMA Documentary Fortnight.


Oyster Factory (2015, Observational Film #6) premiered at the Locarno International Film Festival and won the audience award at the Kinotayo Film Festival.


Inland Sea (2018, Observational Film #7) was invited to Berlin International Film Festival and The Big House (Observational Film #8) was premiered at the Berlin Critics’ Week.


Zero (2020, Observational Film #9) had its debut at MoMA Doc Fortnight and its International Premiere at Berlinale Forum 2020. 

THE CATS OF GOKOGU SHRINE (2024, Observational Film #10) will have its World Premiere at Berlinale Forum 2024. 


He is also the author of nine books published in Japan. 

"Ten Commandments" of Observational Filmmaking

I have made eight feature length documentaries so far using the same method and style. I call them "observational films" not only because they are inspired by the tradition of observational cinema, but also because I believe in the power of observation.


When I say "observation" in this context, I do not mean maintaining a distance from my subjects or being a neutral third party. On the contrary, it is about looking and listening attentively. Furthermore, there are two aspects to observation.


Firstly, I as a filmmaker closely observe the reality in front of me and make films according to my observations and discoveries, not based on my assumptions or preconceptions I had before I shot the film. Secondly, I encourage viewers to observe the film actively with their own eyes and minds.


In order to realize these two aspects, I came up with these "Ten Commandments" for me to follow. They are:


1 No research.

2 No meetings with subjects.

3 No scripts.

4 Roll the camera yourself.

5 Shoot for as long as possible.

6 Cover small areas deeply.

7 Do not set up a theme or goal before editing.

8 No narration, super-imposed titles, or music.

9 Use long takes.

10 Pay for the production yourself.


These policies were conceived based on my frustrating experiences as a television documentary director before I started making films.


As a television director, I was required to do a lot of research and to write detailed scripts before shoots. I felt this process made it harder for me to discover anything beyond my imagination and expectation because I was bound by my own knowledge, preconceived notions, and plans. I was also forced to explain everything to the viewers by including narration, super-imposed titles, and music, all of which seemed to obstruct the viewers from really observing what was on screen.


In other words, I found that these practices prevented me from making documentaries with eye-opening discoveries for both the audience and myself. So I decided to do the opposite.


Kazuhiro Soda

© 2024 Laboratory X, Inc.


THE CATS OF GOKOGU SHRINE (五香宮の猫 / Gokōgu no Neko)

(International Sales: ASIAN SHADOWS)

2024, Documentary, Observational Film #10, 119 minutes

- Berlinale Forum 2024

- East Asia Film Festival Ireland

        Opening Film

- Hong Kong International Film Festival

- San Francisco International Film Festival

- JeonJu International Film Festival

ZERO (精神 0 / Seishin 0)

(International Sales: ASIAN SHADOWS)

2020, Documentary, Observational Film #9, 128 minutes

- MoMA Doc Fortnight 2020, 'Centerpiece'

- Berlinale 2020: 

      Ecumenical Jury Prize

- Festival des 3 Continents 2020, Montgolfière d'Or Award (Best Film)


2018, Documentary, Observational Film #8, 119 minutes

- Berlinale Critics' Week 2018

- Sheffield Doc/Fest

- Ann Arbor Film Festival

INSIDE SEA (Minatomachi)

2018, Documentary, Observational Film #7, 122 minutes

- Berlinale 



- Cinema du Réel 

- Art of the Real


2015, Documentary, Observational Film #6, 145 minutes

- Kinotayo Film Festival, Audience Award

- Locarno Film Festival

- Festival des 3 Continents


- Vancouver IFF

CAMPAIGN 2 (Senkyo 2)

2013, Documentary, Observational Film #5, 149 minutes

- Cinema du Réel 

- Dubai IFF

- MoMA Doc Fortnight


THEATRE 2 (Engeki 2)

2012, Documentary, Observational Film #4, 170 minutes

- Festival des 3 Continents, Young Jury's Prize

- Busan IFF

- Japan Foundation Support Program for Film and Visual Media Production on Japan

THEATRE 1 (Engeki 1)

2012, Documentary, Observational Film #3, 172 minutes

- Festival des 3 Continents, Young Jury's Prize

- Busan IFF

- Japan Foundation Support Program for Film and Visual Media Production on Japan


2011, Documentary, Observational Film Extra, 3 minutes 11 seconds

As a part of 311 A Sense of Home Films, curated by Naomi Kawase


2010, Documentary, Observational Film Extra, 75 minutes

- Tokyo Filmex, Audience Award

- HKIFF, Best Documentary Award

- Visions du Réel, Buyens-Chagall Prize

- DMZ Korean International Documentary Festival, Opening Film

MENTAL (精神 / Seishin)

(International Sales: ASIAN SHADOWS)

2008, Documentary, Observational Film #2, 135 minutes

- Berlinale Forum

- Busan IFF, Best Documentary

- Dubai IFF, Best Documentary

- Miami IFF, Special Jury Mention

- HKIFF, Outstanding Documentary Award

- Visions du Réel, Inter-religious Jury Prize

- Asian Network of Documentary (AND) Fund, Post-production grant

- Asian Pacific Screen Award 2009 Nomination


2007, Documentary, Observational Film #1, 120 minutes

- Berlinale Forum

- Peabody Award 2008

- Belgrade IFF, Best Film

MY SON WAS KILLED (Soshite Musuko ha Korosareta)

2005, Documentary, 20 minutes, NHK

111 FIRST IN WINTER (Mafuyu no 111)

2005, Documentary, 20 minutes, NHK


2004, Documentary, 110 minutes, NHK


2004, Documentary, 25 minutes, NHK 


1997-2003, 33 episodes Documentary series, 20 minutes, NHK

FESTIVAL OF THE SUN (Taiyo no Matsuri)

2002, Documentary, 120 minutes, NHK

INTERNET ADOPTION (Intanetto de Kazoku ga Umareru)

2001, Documentary, 59 minutes, NHK


1997, Fiction, 17 minutes

- Venice International Film Festival, Italy

- Max Orphuls Preis Int. Film Festival, Germany

- Received Kodak Production Grant through School of Visual Arts


1996, Fiction, 85 minutes

- Sao Paulo IFF, Brazil 


1995, 10 minutes

- Flanders IFF, Belgium


1995, 5 minutes

- Canadian IFF, Special Commendation

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