Kaneto Shindo, 1912 – 2012

As I was getting ready to leave for A-Kon 23, I heard that Kaneto Shindo, Japan’s oldest active film-maker, had died aged 100. He was also believed to be the second oldest active film-maker in the world, after Portugal’s 103-year-old Manoel de Oliviera.

While I was flying to Texas the obituaries and tributes began to flood in. The New York Times and the Guardian provided detailed overviews of his career; the Japan Times has so far run almost 30 articles related to him.

He directed almost 50 movies and wrote more than four times that number. Best known in the West may be his classy, minimal J-horror thrillers ‘Onibaba‘ and ‘Kuroneko‘. Stylish and  masterfully paced, they are among the most chilling of the genre.

A native of Hiroshima, his work was informed by the horror of the atomic bomb. Yet another memory haunted him all his life. He was one of only six survivors of his 100-man unit during the Second World War. He said “I have always had the souls of the 94 with me, and have made them  the theme of my existence.”

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