Documentary about 1964 Japanese Women’s Olympic Gold Medal-Winning Volleyball Team Screening at Film Forum

The Witches of the Orient

Beginning Friday, July 9 for four daily showings through Thursday, July 15: 12:15 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 6:50 p.m., and 9:10 p.m.
From Friday, July 16: one daily showing at 4:30 p.m.

Film Forum – 209 W. Houston Street (between 6th Avenue and Varick Street)

Admission: $15/$9 Film Forum members

How did a group of humble factory workers become a phenomenal sports success story and the pride of an entire nation? French filmmaker Julien Faraut’s (John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection) ferociously innovative and visually stunning The Witches of the Orient tells the tale of the Japanese women’s volleyball team’s thrilling rise, unbelievable 258-game winning streak, and eventual Olympic gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The Witches of the Orient courtesy KimStim

About the Film

United by their jobs in a textile factory, the Japanese women’s volleyball team chased absolute perfection under the guidance of their grueling coach Hirofumi Daimatsu. His methods were so tough that in Japan he was known as “the Demon,” with his intense, endless practice sessions, shaping the team into a force to be reckoned with. While the west viewed Japan as an alien upstart in the postwar years, it didn’t prevent the team from striking fear in the hearts of their competitors, earning them the racist and dismissive moniker “Oriental witches.”

Less an underdog tale than a saga of overwhelming determination that simultaneously subverts and feeds an Orientalized mystique, The Witches of the Orient conjures the tenor and tone of the team’s grip on the imagination of an entire nation seeking renewal and acceptance on the world stage of the post-war era.

When the director Julien Faraut begins to splice the sequences of the team’s practices with shots from a 1984 animated series that they inspired, the cuts from real events to illustrations appear seamless.”

— Teo Bugbee, The New York Times

Archival Footage + Anime

Faraut’s sparkling documentary uses fantastic manga and anime sequences, such as Attack no 1 (1968), with archival footage of blood-curdling matches, intense training sessions (driven by rhythmic editing and great music from French musician K-Raw), and testimony from the now-octogenarian teammates. The result charts the Witches’ meteoric rise without losing their overwhelmingly vital spirit. The joy of the Witches’ success is infectious and offers a hopeful prelude to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.

The Witches of the Orient courtesy KimStim

The Witches of the Orient, a New York Times Critic’s Pick (click here to read Teo Bugbee’s review), is playing at Film Forum. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit Film Forum’s website.