Can a candidate with no political experience and no charisma win an election if he is backed by the political giant Prime Minister Koizumi and his Liberal Democratic Party? This cinema-verite documentary closely follows a heated election campaign in Kawasaki, Japan, revealing the true nature of "democracy." Written by
A little dull and superficial but this is the point and it is a quite depressing and well made point nonetheless
Another reviewer has already commented that 90 minutes was too long for this film and I must agree with them despite having seen a shorter version. This film was shown as part of BBC4's Why Democracy? season of films and it was preceded with the words "can politicians solve climate change?". The answer to this question is the film itself and it is a depressing answer because watching this you can only really say "no". Looking at a comparatively low level in the game, we follow aspiring politician Kazuhiko Yamauchi on the campaign trail as he stands at a bus shelter telling passers-by how he is for "reform".
The film continues in the same vein and it is part of the reason why it works fine when it is not so long - even at sixty minutes it has made its point with time to spare. The essence of the film seems to be that democracy has the downside of being a bit of a popularity contest, with those seeking power unable to really challenge the big issues because their focus is all about getting in by pleasing as many people as possible, whereas the reality is that the solutions to some issues will not be vote winners but still need doing. This film will feel a bit banal to some viewers but this is the point and I was surprised by how I was engaged by the superfluous nature of the race to office. Yamauchi is hardly the most charismatic of men and says little about who he is or what he stands for all that seems to matter is that he avoids contentious issues and that he gets himself well supported by Prime Minister Koizumi and other candidates.
It is a frank and surprisingly honest film to the point where I did wonder how the makers got such things on films. The banality of the campaign trail is one thing but to be able to film the personal conversations between Yamauchi and his wife made me wonder who agreed to this and what they thought they would get out of it. It does rather depress me as a voter but it is what it is and it is no different than the reality in elections in other countries (which I guess is the point). In the UK in 2000/01 Shaun Woodward was parachuted into Labour safe seat St Helens as reward for defecting from the Conservative party to New Labour. It didn't matter that Woodward was a million miles remote from his new constituents (St Helens is one of the poorest areas in Europe whereas Woodward famously had a butler), all that mattered was that politics was being played and Labour knew that the voters of St Helens would play along no matter who was put in front of them. This is one example of the problem, the film is another and I'm sure every constituency across the world has others.
The film is slow and superficial in some ways but this is the appeal. I agree that even at sixty minutes it is a little bit longer than it needs to be but it makes its point well and I was surprised by how honest some of the footage was and also how on earth the makers got anyone involved to agree to make this film considering what it is clearly showing the process of democracy to be. Almost makes you wish for an unelected Government to come in for 10 years and just force through unpopular resolutions through but then I guess you know what they say about absolute power?
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