Tarachime (Birth/Mother). 2006. Japan. Directed by Naomi Kawase. In Japanese; English subtitles. 39 min.
About to give birth to her own child, Kawase gazes at the aging body of her “grandmother,” who with her husband took in Kawase as their own child. A tough but honest and deeply felt look at a difficult shared past.
Genpin. 2010. Japan. Directed by Naomi Kawase. In Japanese; English subtitles. 92 min.
Doctor Yoshimura is an obstetrician who runs a natural childbirth clinic based on ideas about maintaining healthy bodies and positive minds, dating back to the Edo period. The film follows several women’s experiences at the clinic, including many activities—the women do 300 squats a day and keep active chopping wood—that run askew from the more conventional attitudes of modern medicine. Genpin reveals the great joy, sadness, and differences of opinion that the midwives, mothers, and the doctor encounter in honoring this way of life. The title refers to the words of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “The valley spirit never dies/It is named the mysterious woman [genpin].”