A lyrical introduction to the traditional world of Japan's free-diving fisherwomen. A multiple award-winning documentary from Portuguese director Cláudia Varejão.
For centuries, the ama (literally 'women of the sea') of the remote Shima Peninsula have been diving for seafood. Remarkably, the average age of the fisherwomen is 67. Varejão's film captures three generations of divers as they head out to the Pacific, chatting like workers everywhere as they fold their traditional linen headdresses and adjust their goggles. As the women plunge beneath the ocean, silence surrounds them and time slows – a fitting analogy for this enduring but endangered tradition – while onshore they bathe and unwind before returning to household routines. This spellbinding film is awash in hypnotic visuals and reflects on past and future, while questioning common concepts of femininity.
Cláudia Varejão was born in Portugal, and studied film at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the German Film und Fernsehakademie Berlin and São Paulo’s International Film Academy. She directed four shorts and one feature, In The Darkness of the Theater I Take Off My Shoes.
In the depths of the sea, these mysterious creatures cease to be women and simply be themselves. Cláudia Varejão's camera succeeds in this sense in acting as a bridge not only between tradition and modernity, but between male and female, yin and yang, profoundness and outward appearances, in search of a necessary and liberating balance. – Giorgia Del Don, Cineuropa
Another point that becomes evident through various scenes is their [the ama] harmonic relationship with nature, and their spirituality, as exemplified by their frequent prayers. In that fashion, Varejão makes a clear statement regarding the importance of tradition, particularly in Japan, which, despite its long history, moves rapidly towards modernism, leaving many of its traditions behind, particularly among the new generations. – Panos Kotzathanasis, www.easternkicks.com