Five Kurosawas and a (de)construction of the Orient
Huttunen, M. (2020). Five Kurosawas and a (de)construction of the Orient. Politics, 40(3), 281-294. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395719883759
© The Author(s) 2019
In 1959, UNESCO published a catalogue of Eastern films suitable for Western audiences, titled ‘Orient. A Survey of Films Produced in Countries of Arab and Asian Culture’. The aim of the catalogue was to familiarise Western audiences with Eastern cultures through cinema. The catalogue lists seven general characteristics of Eastern cinema to distinguish it from its Western counterpart and to provide ready-made interpretations of the essential characteristics of the Eastern world. Of the 139 feature films listed in the catalogue, five were directed by Kurosawa Akira – the biggest number of films by a single director. This article provides an analysis of the five Kurosawa films within the frame provided by the characterisations in the catalogue in the political framework of World War II and its aftermath. Reading the cultural differences listed in the catalogue as a means of constructing the East in Western eyes, the article suggests UNESCO’s world was defined neither in terms of the contemporaneous geopolitical polarisation of the Cold War nor the ongoing decolonisation process. Instead, the catalogue served the purpose of proposing a cultural intervention in geopolitics, providing a reimagining of political realities constructed on a cultural basis and given a concrete form through cinema. ...