A Great Day in Tokyo: 18 great prewar film directors

Members Page

Introduction

This is the page for members to announce who they are and to describe how and why they became fans of the Japanese director Uchida Tomu (“Tomu Uchida,” in Western name order). 

Membership in IUTAS is free. You need only contact the website creator (me) and answer a few simple questions to be included. All members will be listed on this webpage, unless they choose not to be.

In addition, we are including an Uchida Personal Testimony section on this page. There members can, much as I did on the Introduction page of this website, provide their own story about how they first encountered the work of this great artist, and what that work means to them.

To become a member and/or to contribute your personal testimony, contact me using the contact page form, and I will get back to you via email, so you can provide me with your content to upload.

Members List

Below is the alphabetical list of current members of IUTAS: The International Uchida Tomu Appreciation Society, founded in June 2021. We hope to keep expanding the list in the near future.

  • Akasaka Daisuke Film critic, born in Tokyo; organizer of cineclub series “New Century New Cinema” from 2003; Lecturer at College of Contemporary Psychology, Rikkyo University, 2008-2021; published (2019) Frame no soto he gendai eiga no media hihan (Frame – media literacy by modern cinema).
  • David Baldwin – Founder and Acting President of IUTAS; playwright, screenwriter and activist, based in New York. 
  • Patrick McInerney – Patrick started loving movies as a teen, found his areas of interest in international film noir, giallo movies, wuxia, Kung Fu and Hong Kong gunplay, and silent film. As a moderator of the TrueFilm subreddit, he and his fellow moderators released two Frank Borzage films from the Library of Congress archives. He currently works in property management in Oklahoma.
  • Dan Sallitt – Dan Sallitt is a filmmaker and film writer living in New York City.
  • Hayley Scanlon – London-based writer, translator, and editor of East Asian cinema website Windows on Worlds.  

Personal Testimony

Patrick McInerney

In the 21st century, Tomu Uchida is no longer just a director; he’s a quest. After spending months reading about him, scouring the less-than-reputable but nevertheless essential corners of the Internet for copies of his films, reaching out to film scholars and archives around the world and even bumping into his descendants online, I was asked by a friend of mine if I liked his movies. I had never even considered it, and by the time I had wrapped my head around as much of his canon as I could reasonably manage, it no longer mattered. And if you’re reading this, it likely doesn’t matter to you, either.

The fanatic timeline is the same for many of us. Most start out as “movie fans,” one of the only people we know in real life who has ever seen The Breakfast Club. A fraction of us put on a tie and call ourselves “film enthusiasts” because we now use words like “truly,” “benchmark,” “auteur,” and “prophetic.” A fraction of that fraction venture out into our little niches. We begin with a canon and make it our mission to tinker with it, to make our own canon. Factions coalesce in South American film noir, or in wuxia films, or Italian Neorealism, or Lubitsch’s German silents. Others’ nerves were struck by Kurosawa or Mizoguchi movies, but the story is the same no matter where we land: like Indiana Jones said, we “find the edges.” Who did Kurosawa watch as a kid? What came before? Why does Japanese cinema have a distinct visual style? Or does it? Were benshi really more popular than actors?

Before long, we find ourselves many pages into many Google search results, looking up pdf’s of obscure screening playbooks from previous decades. Some titles look interesting, but of course they’re not readily accessible. An email to the screening’s hosts couldn’t hurt. Many of the titles are in the public domain, so signing up to a private tracker to get our hands on them doesn’t feel unethical. (And let’s face it, those obscure titles that have never had releases end up there by fellow film lovers, who have access to the film and can’t bear to see them waste away). By the time we find Uchida’s Earth, it doesn’t matter that we’ll have to translate the German hardcoded subtitles into English by hand, one phrase of dialog at a time. We’re already behind, seeing as the reviews we’ve read of the movie have employed the tried-and-true backhandedly snarky tone, implying that the most famous movie from a guy is good, but the obscure stuff is way better. We translate that damn movie anticipating the adventures in finding the next one. And it doesn’t matter when we find out there was a subtitle file already in existence somewhere online. In that moment, does it even occur to us to ask ourselves if we liked Earth? I did, but I found myself not caring about my own opinions.

Most people have never heard of Akira Kurosawa, and most Kurosawa fans have never heard of Tomu Uchida, and out of the perhaps merely hundreds of people who are aware of his work, my guess is dozens of us, maybe a hundred or two, have seen more than one of his movies. And the story remains the same whether your interest is in Expressionism, underground animation, chanbara or Nigerian musicals: you are one of a vanishingly small group of people who, with a moderate amount of obsession, could become worldwide experts in the subject. Through my own obsessions, I teamed up with a ragtag gang to convince strangers to give us money to give to the Library of Congress to scan and release some silent films from Frank Borzage that were being painstakingly preserved in their archives.

The reason I latched on to this group’s idea to release the movies was because, after all the self indulgence I’d asked our film writing community to indulge me in (my opinions on Tarantino are devastatingly fresh, right?), I had never contributed a single thing to the art I loved. This seemed like a way to remedy that. Today, I can say that I’ve contributed something small but lasting to film. I want to ask you to do the same for Tomu Uchida. Run wild. Earth had hardcoded German subs because it was made when Germany and Japan were war allies and distributed films to each other; maybe call up some German film archives to see if they have prints wasting away. Find out who distributed his films back in his day and follow the breadcrumb trail until you have numbers and emails today. Google scholarly works that include his name. If you can’t afford JSTOR fees, there are ways around that. Search YouTube for his name, and look in the comments section of every video related to him. His grand nephew is in there, and is still in contact with the side of the family that has some of Uchida’s stuff. Start a Kickstarter to raise the money to scan the prints. Find them. Find the edges. You can contribute something to film, and to Uchida’s legacy.

The circle of movie lovers that are reading this is small enough that when you start poking around, your name will make the rounds. Where do you think the people on those silent film forums work? (They work in the archives: those are now your contacts. Be nice to them. They’re amazing people, and are willing to help.) Maybe someone from a film archive will email you with the only surviving print of a movie and just wants to see if you’d be interested in seeing it. It’s not Uchida, but come on. You can’t pass that up. Maybe you’ll get interested in benshi narration and can find Japanese speakers who want to try their hand at narrating a silent Uchida movie. You could screen it online, your audience being the first pairs of eyes in a century to see his movies that way. There’s a lot you can do with determination as your only resource.

I’ve got to admit, I burned out. I tried to eat all my Halloween candy in one night and got sick. Pace yourself. It’s a hobby: four hours a day, max, and do one other thing in that day besides your day job. But please do something. The directors you love, loved Tomu Uchida. You’ll love him, too. Please make the conversation two-way. Nothing is perfect. I don’t think many of his films survive. Nothing is finished. My guess is that there are multiple films of his that are being preserved and are in dire need of scanning and releasing. Nothing lasts forever. But they can last for a while. And they’re on this Earth right now.