Documentary on daily life of Osaka butcher shop wins accolades
17/12/2013; The Asahi Shimbun
A documentary film focusing on the daily routine of a family that runs a slaughterhouse and butcher shop is currently playing in Tokyo and Osaka after winning praise from audiences at showings both home and abroad.
Directed by Tokyo's Aya Hanabusa, "Tale of a Butcher Shop" documents how a family in Osaka Prefecture raises and slaughters cattle at a century-old slaughterhouse and operates a retail butcher shop.
The film opens with a sequence of a cow being led through a residential district with rhythmic steps. It is the last cow to be processed at Kitade Butcher Shop, which has been in use by the Kitade family for 102 years. The slaughterhouse is scheduled to be closed for demolition because the facility has become too old and outdated.
After killing the cow by hitting it in the front of the head with a hammer, four family members dismember the animal with quick practiced efficiency. The camera quietly follows the process.
With the division of labor becoming the standard in the business, breeding, slaughtering and selling the meat are carried out by different concerns. It is rare for one family to handle all the processes.
After the day's labor, the family is joined by neighbors to enjoy a lively meal together. "Tale of a Butcher Shop" shows the everyday events of the family in a straightforward manner. It won favorable reviews from audiences at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in Yamagata Prefecture and the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea. Some audience members said that they would like to see the film again with their children.
Hanabusa said when she saw black-and-white pictures of a slaughterhouse for the first time years ago, she found them "beautiful." The director wanted to turn her feelings into a film, but first she gave serious thought as to whether she could present issues surrounding discrimination against descendants of buraku people of the feudal era in a responsible way.
That was when Hanabusa learned about the Kitade family. She was moved by how the brothers--who run the family business passed down through generations--fondly remember their late father, who had been strict with his children. The brothers started helping their father when they were in elementary school.
"I wanted to reverse the view that (butchering is) something you can barely look at," Hanabusa said, adding that she wanted to "send a message that this job is nothing special" if she were to show their daily lives in an honest and straightforward way.
Hanabusa gained permission to film the daily lives of the Kitade family after she frequented the meat shop for six months and rented a room nearby. She visited the slaughterhouse on a daily basis and shared the dining table with the family, who invited her to join them.
"They ... accepted me for who I was with deep compassion," Hanabusa said. "I had a sense of ease that is hard to find."
Hanabusa adds that critics say butchering cows is cruel. But the Kitade brothers say in a matter-of-fact tone in the film that it is crueler to enjoy eating meat without knowing anything about how it arrived to the dinner table.
Visit the film's official website at (http://www.seinikuten-eiga.com/english/).
By YUKA ORII/ Staff Writer