The Big House by Kazuhiro Soda
Wednesday, March 27 at 7:00 p.m.
Spectacle Theater – 124 S. 3rd Street, Brooklyn
The Big House is the result of an undergrad course taught by Japanese filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda at the University of Michigan in 2016, alongside professors Terri Sarris and Abé Markus Nornes. Michigan’s campus boasts the single largest football stadium in the United States (capacity: 107,601), the eponymous “Big House.”
Soda is infamous for his “ten commandments” of documentary filmmaking, which are as follows:
- No research.
- No meetings with subjects.
- No scripts.
- Roll the camera yourself.
- Shoot for as long as possible.
- Cover small areas deeply.
- Do not set up a theme or goal before editing.
- No narration, super-imposed titles, or music.
- Use long takes.
- Pay for the production yourself.
For this project, Soda challenged his young co-directors to stick as closely as possible to his Ten Commandments while capturing eye-of-the-storm footage across two different game days – resulting in perhaps the most durable testament to his custom-developed technique. Given the filmmakers’ freedom to roam, The Big House is a riveting and frequently hilarious all-you-can-eat buffet of direct cinema that focuses on “everything but the game.”
While the film was shot during the 2016 election season, Soda et al. do not conjecture any easy diagnoses about conservative politics or Midwestern identity. Their reluctance to insert politics directly into a sports documentary is palpable, while the concurrent spectacles of football and pageantry are nearly superseded by the massive logistical coordination that makes it all possible. These ins and outs become their own discrete narrative arcs; what exhilarates is coming up for air among the cheering hordes, the ambient satisfaction of picking out real-life details while being swept up in a much bigger wave.
This screening is the final part of the complete retrospective RADICAL OBSERVATION: THE FILMS OF KAZUHIRO SODA, which highlighted the filmmaker’s unconventional approach to filmmaking. Soda will attend the screening in person. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit Spectacle Theater’s event on withfriends.
“We are social animals, social creatures. Sometimes we cannot endure being alone, and being individual—we have this also. We are being constantly invited to fascism. And what you see in Michigan Stadium is a demonstration of that. It feels so good when you lose yourself and feel like you are a part of a larger something. If you’re rooting for your team and wearing the same colors and singing the same song at the same time with 100,000 people, you feel good! I felt good too. Although I’m not from Michigan, and I’m Japanese. But when I was there shooting, I felt so good. Which was very scary, too (laughs). And I felt a desire inside of me, to be connected with everybody else and to be lost in this crowd, to be part of this huge creature. The problem is that politicians are trying to use that, use this tendency that we have.”
– Kazuhiro Soda, interviewed in Shingetsu
The Big House
119 mins. United States
Directed and produced by Kazuhiro Soda, Markus Nornes, and Terri Sarris
Directed by Vesal Stoakley, Sean Moore, Sarika Tyagi, V. Prasad, Britty Bonine, Alex Brenner, Catie DeWitt, Dylan Hancook, Daniel Kahn, Rachael Kerr, Audrey Meyers, Hannah Noel, Jacob Rich, Kevin Tocco, 2018