"Montse Watkins: Kamakura Tales" (working title) is a documentary project about the Japan of the 1990s as seen through the eyes of the Spanish journalist, writer and publisher Montse Watkins. Montse was Tokyo correspondent for EFE, Spain’s press agency, and for El Mundo and Avui dailies, and a pioneer of direct translation into Spanish of Japanese literature. She was also a fierce advocate of marginalized Latin American Nikkei immigrants.
Montse’s prolific literary career, with over 25 books published in five years, was cut short at 45 by a terminal illness. In spite of these achievements, her name, like that of the Las Sinsombrero, the silenced group of female Spanish poets and intellectuals of the Generation of 1927, is only now beginning to be rescued from oblivion.
Montse arrives in Japan in March 1985 under the spell of Yasujirō Ozu's cinema, just two months before Wim Wenders, also fascinated by Ozu, premiered Tokyo-Ga in Cannes. Wenders’ documentary immerses us in his search for the Japan depicted in Tokyo Story and other films by the classic Japanese filmmaker.
She falls in love with Japan, its culture and language, but this does not prevent her from denouncing the archaic segregation of the “buraku” (untouchable castes) which exists even today, or the social exclusion of the Nikkei immigrants from Peru and Brazil caused by the 1990s economic bubble.
In 1994, soon after she establishes Luna Books publishing house in Tokyo, she is diagnosed with cancer. Montse dispenses with the chemotherapy tubes that keep her imprisoned in the hospital and locks herself in her traditional Japanese house in Kamakura, a fishing village south of Tokyo, three kilometers from Ozu's grave.
In a setting that evokes the composition of Ozu’s well-known tatami shots, we see images of Montse seated on the tatami mat with her ever-present cup of sake, gazing at her zen garden through half-opened shoji (rice paper doors).
Montse devotes the last five years of her life to revealing the soul of Japan by means of photographs, stories and essays and by the direct translation of works of literature by Japanese writers deeply committed to social causes —and practically unknown outside the archipelago at the time—, writers such as Osamu Dazai, Toson Shimazaki, Natsume Sōseki or Kenji Miyazawa, the Japanese Saint-Exupéry, who was Montse’s muse.
Producer: Chelo Alvarez-Stehle
Executive Producer: Elena Gallego Andrada
Director: Chelo Alvarez-Stehle
Editor: Laura Sola
Director of Photography: Jiro Kumakura
© 2019 innerLENS Productions
© 2019 Elena Gallego Andrada