In addition to Japanese' love to anime or cartoon, they have one more addiction - collecting insects. Many spend a couple hundred dollars (Some spend thousanfs!) to collect beetles, or dragon flies to pet. They collect crickets to enjoy the sound.
A New York-based animal keeper and docent at the American Museum of Natural History, Jessica Oreck, was facinated by the way Japanese treat the insects and its environment. And she tried to challenge the Western-way of viewing the nature by making the film, Beetle Queen Conqures Tokyo.
Brains of Japanese Language and Western Language
Before I introduce the film, I would like to give additional explanation of why Japanese people are facinated by insectｓ.
It's because of Japanese language.
A professor of Tokyo Medical & Dental Univerisity, Tadanobu Tsunoda discovered that only Japanese people recognize the sound of crickets during his trip to Havana, Cuba to attend international medical conference in 1987.
He, later, conduct his research and discovered that the only Japanese and Polynesian people use the left side of the brain, "the language sphere," to process the sound of insects.
The people from the rest of the world uses the right side of the brain, "the music sphere" to process the sound.
This difference between Japanese and the rest of the people is determined if you learn Japanese as native language or not. It's just the matter of what "software" (language) you installed in your brain at first.
(For more detail, read "The Japanese Language Brain" by Masaomi Ise)
Because Japanese people can process the sound of insects as language, they were able to incorporate with literature, especially haiku (a type of Japanese poet). This explains why Japanese love insects unlike any other people.
"Beetle Queen Conqures Tokyo"
I attended Cinevegas International Film Festival in 2009. And this film was showcased at the festival. First of all, I had no attention to the fiilm (sorry), but everybody started talking about the film after the screening. I exchanged a few word with the director Jessica Oreck, and I got hold of a screener, and watched it on the way back to Japan last year.
I still remember the impact of the film when I first watched it.
I don't want to call this film just a documentary film. This is the art of people, music, insects and its surrounding nature. The beautifully shot cinematography, tech-yet-traditional touch of music choice. All component of film were very well composited into a film.
The film starts from a scene of Japanese department store one day in Summer. When you visit Japan in summer, you can witness the scenary like the beginning. The children is surrounded by the cages, curious, and then learn how to take care of animal.
Then, the film follows a man who drives Ferrari by selling beetles. He built his fortune, but he is still passionate because of his love of the insects.
The films follows how he catches the insect in forrest, why the people wants to collects insects in Japan.
The film was beautifully composed into one poetic piece, yet it is very entertaining. This is not educational documentary film or discovery channel documentary. It is the new kind of art-and-ethnic documentary film.
I abosuletely recomment to watch this film, though, I have one comment.
The director, Jessica Oreck, claimed that she wanted to "challenge the way that Westerner view nature". However, the film was still from Western point-of-view, or it was outsider-ish.
It probably because Oreck didn't learn Japanese as native language, and she still conceives insetcs as "music."
It's very difficult to explain.
As a Japanese, I have grown up surrounded by chrus of frogs, cicada and crickets. As we look the insects as the part of language, their lives are blended into our society. Japanese think that human and the nature as one.
But Oreck brought the view as harmony of two different components. She still treated the lives of insects and Japanese people as "owner" and "pets" relationship. This is partly true, not completely true. I still feel that she has Western philosophical point of view.
On the other hand, Oreck did a very good job to minimize the gap and try to make non-Japanese people understand why many Japanese people love insetcs as much as possible..
On the other hand, I was able to watch the film from Westerner's point-of-view, and I was able to discover myself as Japanese, who has been surrounded by the insects in my whole life. So it was very refreshing to me as a Japanese.
After all, the film was beautifully shot and well composed.
The film is coming near you in the US
Regardless of my small critisism, the film is still must-see documentary of 2010 whether you like Japanese culture or not.
If you learn Japanese as native language, you must watch this film to learn how we are cool
If you didn't learn Japanese as native language, you can experience the harmony how Japanese people live together with insects.
I also recommended this film to the people who has nothing to do with Japanese.
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Screening Schedule as on 5/25/2010
New York, NY
May 21 - June 3, 2010
Seattle International Film Festival
May 31, 2010
June 2, 2010
Downtown Independent Theater
Los Angeles, CA
May 28 - June 3, 2010
Cinema Arts Centre
June 1, 2010
Denver Film Society
June 3 - 10, 2010
June 3: Event at Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Real Art Ways
June 4 - 10, 2010
Museum of Fine Arts
June 9 - 13, 2010
The Light Factory
June 16 - 18, 2010
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
Oklahoma City, OK
June 18 - 20, 2010
Detroit Institute for Arts
July 16 - 18, 2010
Gene Siskel Film Center
July 16 - 22, 2010
The Loft Cinema
July 21, 2010
You can also schedule to book the screening if you have enough people.