The Witches of the Orient

Julien Faraut

IndieLisboa 2021 •

France, Documentary, 2021, 100′

The players of the Japanese women’s volleyball team that won the gold medal at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo were known as “The Witches of the Orient”. Even today, they maintain a record of 258 consecutive victories. Now in their seventies, they are reunited on a walk down memory lane, which includes an anime sequence and a playful look, full of pop culture references.

Julien Faraut’s film universe is connected to sports. For several years, he has been in charge of the film collection of the French Sports Institute. It was in one of those films that he saw the Witches of the Orient in action, a famous Japanese female volleyball squad that would represent the country, for the first time, in Tokyo’s 1964 Olympic Games. Adding to this, Faraut realised that these players were the ones in the centre of one anime he used to watch as a child in the eighties in France. Witches of the Orient combines, in a very skilful way, archive footage, animation, a documentary sensibility - by meeting the players and her memories -, but also a funny and in some moments experimental pop aesthetics. Through sports, Faraut’s film tells us about discipline and a post-war Japan that, just like one of those sorcières, went to the floor but got up again immediately after. (Carlos Natálio)