Recalibrating Modernity: East Asian Socially Engaged Documentary and the Evocation of Another World

  • Dan Edwards


This chapter explores, expands, and updates Chris Berry’s notion of a “socially engaged mode of independent documentary” in East Asia. Focusing on documentaries made in Japan, South Korea, and China, it argues that socially engaged practices represent a set of related, though distinct, celebrations of localized vernacular cultures in the face of an ever-intensifying process of globalization. Behind this celebration lies the possibility of a fundamentally recalibrated relationship to modernity, built around local needs, expressions, and community participation, rather than the needs of transnational capital. These claims are explored through the films of Ogawa Shinsuke, Kim Dong-won, and Ou Ning—filmmakers whose work has engaged very directly with struggles related to the expropriation of land and the breakup of existing communities in their respective countries.


Ou Ning Kim Dong-won Ogawa Shinsuke Chinese documentary South Korean documentary Japanese documentary Socially engaged documentary 



The writing of this chapter was made possible by a Postdoctoral Fellowship provided by the Research Unit in Public Cultures at the University of Melbourne, Australia. I would particularly like to thank the two heads of the unit during my fellowship—Professor Nikos Papastergiadis and Associate Professor Audrey Yue—for their support. I would also like to thank my anonymous reviewers for their suggestions, which resulted in a much improved chapter.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan Edwards
    • 1
  1. 1.Oak ParkAustralia

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