Author: Shen, Qinna
Source: Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, DOI: 10.1080/01439685.2021.1976915, September 2021
Type of Publication: Journal Article
Abstract: Co-productions are often notoriously difficult, and this was certainly the case in 1936–37 for the most important co-production between Nazi Germany and Japan. What should have been one joint film for the international market turned out to be two different versions: New Earth in Japanese and English by Itami Mansaku and The Samurai’s Daughter in German and Japanese by Arnold Fanck. This article focuses on three filmmakers—producer Kawakita Nagamasa and the directors Fanck and Itami—to better understand the production and reception of the films and what led to the split between the directors. The push for a power axis between Nazi Germany and imperial Japan metamorphosed Kawakita from a cosmopolitan cultural mediator between Japan, Germany, and China to a nationalist film functionary during Japan’s invasion of China and implicated his career in fascist war efforts. The Nazi German-Japanese alliance led the famed mountain film director Fanck to acclimate his film to serve the binational political agenda. But the same push for alliance alienated Itami, whose liberal and anti-authoritarian positions were at odds with the politics of the day. Yet, Itami’s position was not representative of that of imperial Japan, therefore his duel with Fanck and the resultant failed co-production cannot serve as a metaphor for the superficial or ‘hollow’ alliance between Nazi Germany and Japan, as some scholars have claimed.