Douglas Edwards Experimental Film Award

The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin)
Directed by C.W. Winter & Anders Edström

The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) is an extraordinary work of experimental filmmaking on multiple levels simultaneously. Its truly rare scale — running an even eight hours — and quotidian focus seem to speak for themselves; such is the verisimilitude of the actions, conversations and natural environs that this could be easily seen as “pure” nonfiction. But C.W. Winter and Anders Edström are after something much knottier, for the film is not the straightforward documentary it may appear to be. It is instead a series of reenactments, allowing Shiojiri to replay the last year of her husband’s life in order to provide her the space and time to say and do the things she wished she could have.

Such space and time, of course, maps onto and is virtually indistinguishable from the space and time used to make this film, and as surprisingly frequently as the veil of artifice is pierced — with, say, a ghostly dissolve or a sequence where a monologue plays out solely in subtitles — there is still a palpable sense of fully inhabited life playing out in every moment. That life comes most vividly in the form of nature: Much time is given over to shots of plants and wind, and what would be seen typically as establishing shots or moments of contemplation in a more traditional narrative film comes to the forefront as its own strand of reckoning and beauty.

The Works and Days is monumental, but it is also inviting, each layered soundscape and naturally lit image — both on the verge of abstraction at times — another element in a shimmering mosaic, whose beauty only further contextualizes and deepens the memories of melancholy and resilience at its center.

— Ryan Swen