Perhaps there is no more startling evidence of the cultural divide between East and West than that which is on display in Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, with scenes of Japanese families intentionally bringing large bugs into their homes and children playing with pincered beetles like living action figures. Using insects like an anthropologist’s toolkit, the film uncovers Japanese philosophies that will shift perspectives on nature, beauty and life, and just might make you question if your ‘instinctive’ repulsion to bugs is merely a trick of Western conditioning.
Some of you may remember a few posts I did a while back when the film Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, directed by Jessica Oreck, made its way to SF back last summer. The screening in SF only lasted a few days at the Kabuki Theater in Japantown, so if you missed it, now is your chance to see the debute of Beetle Queen ON TV!
I was excited when Jessica blogged about MiniLivestock and asked me to be a Beetle Queen guest blogger*****. I also had the opportunity to spend some time with Jessica while she was here for her SF screening. We had a good conversation over dinner about or varying projects and passions, made a trip to Paxton Gate, and did some hanging out in the Mission District. Overall, good times with a passionate, down-to-earth person with an interesting and beautiful film that I highly recommend.
I just saw Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo last night at the Kabuki Theater in Japantown, which was really beautifully produced and written. It’s not just for people who are interested in bugs, and is not heavily academic like some might imagine…it’s a film for everyone, and one that anyone can understand and relate to…which is what I think is so great about it. Everything from the soundtrack (almost all tracks were composed specially for the film), to the visuals, to the story, worked very well together…all very poetic as most viewers would agree. My favorite part is what the Japanese philosophical entomologist/psychologist had to say about life. It was pleasant to hear, thoughtful, and made me reflect on my own life. Maybe I’ll tell you later what he said, but for now, you’ll have to go see the film for yourself!
It was interesting to learn how owning certain insects as pets or for collecting is such a nation-wide, prized and expensive hobby, not to mention a lucrative multi-million dollar industry! It’s not too different from the dog craze in the US, and how some people are willing to pay top dollar for “top” breeds. The film discussed how a culture has identified themselves with insects, which spanned from spiritual purposes, as military armor inspiration, or even popular video game characters. There was also a lively Q&A session with Jessica after the film, which unfortunately was only for the the Friday and Saturday screenings, but you can still see the film up until the 15th! While you’re at the Kabuki, don’t forget to support the project by picking up some Beetle Queen swag!
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo explores the mystery of the development of Japan’s love affair with bugs. Using insects like an anthropologist’s toolkit, the film uncovers Japanese philosophies that will shift Westerners’ perspectives on nature, beauty, life, and even the seemingly mundane realities of their day-to-day routines.
The documentary debuted last March at the 2009 SXSW in Austin, and has been on a screening tour around the globe since then. What I want to know is, why aren’t they screening in SF? I think the Bay Area audience would definitely be interested in this film. I’d like to figure out a way to organize a screening here…so if any of you out there have any suggestions, let me know. If it doesn’t happen, I might have to make a stop at the screening on my visit to SoCal.
— Words from the director:
In making Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, I am striking a new and unconventional approach to science education. My goal is to reach children and adults alike, and to help reframe their relationship with the natural world. My passion isn’t about genetics, it isn’t about global warming, it doesn’t follow the latest craze in the science world – but it is critically relevant to the problems of today. It is about attention to detail, patience, and ultimately harmony – all of which are so rarely present in our modern lives.
Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo acts like a 360° virtual tour. It revolves slowly around Japan’s love of insects, and in the process of capturing different angles of this micro-culture, it picks up a glimmer of something much larger. Because the film travels not just two-dimensionally around an object, but also three-dimensionally through time, this glimmer of ‘something larger’ ultimately reveals itself, not just as a cultural backdrop, not just as a philosophy, but as an entire way of life – as a possibility to change the most basic nature of our perspectives.
My aim is to challenge the way Westerners view nature, beauty and the hectic monotony of our day-to-day routine. It is my intention to inspire a new sense of wonder – a small sense of wonder – one that does not overwhelm, but acts, like some gentle war of attrition, to slowly but substantially coax us into rethinking how we live our lives. As with the Japanese culture, the film is subtle, but it functions as a passageway to a wholly different world of senses.