Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda is a must see documentary directed by Stephen Nomura Schible.
One of the most important artists of our era, Ryuichi Sakamoto has had a prolific career spanning over four decades, from techno-pop stardom to Oscar- winning film composer. The evolution of his music has coincided with his life journeys. Following Fukushima, Sakamoto became an iconic figure in Japan’s social movement against nuclear power. As Sakamoto returns to music following cancer, his haunting awareness of life crisis leads to a resounding new masterpiece. Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda is an intimate portrait of both the artist and the man.
Stephen Nomura Schible director of the Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda says: ” I wanted this film to explore how Ryuichi Sakamoto’s awareness of environmental, social and even his personal crises brought change to his musical expression. I had the title Coda in mind since the very beginning, as I wanted the film to land with a musical ending – with the birth of a new song. My hope is that those who journey with this film may find it to be like an opening of perception, allowing for a chance to imagine how Ryuichi Sakamoto hears the world, and to witness how he ultimately triumphs to find new musical expression in the end.
I began making this film in 2012, when the wounds of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster of Northeastern Japan were still relatively new. It wasn’t long after I first learned that Ryuichi Sakamoto became a vocal anti-nuclear advocate back home in the wake of Fukushima. I suppose I intuited that there was a story to be told. I began shooting quite suddenly and impulsively. The varied economic interests in Japan that wield political control do not typically like popular artists who speak out about issues deemed taboo, particularly nuclear contamination. So his vocal stance wasn’t without risk or friction. The mainstream Japanese media, which otherwise follows Ryuich’s career very ardently, was reluctant to touch his activism in depth. So I saw a void to be filled. To my surprise Ryuichi graciously granted access, and that was the start of what became our five-year process. Fukushima made me feel like my world had been turned upside down, that nothing will ever be the same again. I sensed Ryuichi shared the same sentiment.
I never wanted to make a political fim. More than anything, I wanted to know how this change would manifest in his art. I grew up in Tokyo during the 70’s and 80’s. So I knew that Ryuichi once represented a certain technology-driven ethos during Japan’s economic boom period through his work with the techno-pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra. I became interested in how he was taking a stance against the establishment, now driven by a remorseful concern about technology related to environmental deterioration.
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, a MUBI release, opens tomorrow, July 6 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The film opens in LA on July 13.