This essential follow-up to Soda Kazuhiro’s taboo-breaking documentary on mental illness in Japanese society revisits the pillar of that film, Dr Yamamoto Masatomo, as he prepares to bid his patients farewell and enter into retirement.
A decade after Mental (also presented at NZIFF20), filmmaker Soda Kazuhiro returns to Chorale Okayama, the mental health clinic run by Dr Yamamoto Masatomo. A deeply compassionate portrait of a doctor who spent decades dedicating his life to the mental health community, Soda captures the many intimate moments between Dr Yamamoto and his patients, including their frank conversations as they try to come to terms with losing a doctor they deeply trust. In a society that shows no respect for their conditions, the patients must navigate the difficult path to mental wellness, and for some, mere survival in everyday life, without the support they have relied on for so long.
As Dr Yamamoto wraps up his professional life, we get an intimate look at his relationship with his wife Yoshiko, whose mind and body are slowly withered by dementia. Soda, as filmmaker and cameraperson, records the casual moments as the couple goes about their daily routine, as Yamamoto is now tasked with caring for his wife after decades of Yoshiko’s unwavering support. At once deeply moving and keenly observed, Zero strikes a deep emotional chord with its subtle and non-sentimental approach. — Vicci Ho
About the Filmmaker
Soda Kazuhiro is a Japanese independent filmmaker based in New York. He is regarded for his strict “ten commandments” of filmmaking, which characterise his observational philosophy towards documentary. Selected filmography: Inland Sea (2018), The Big House (2018), Peace (2010), Mental (2008), Campaign (2007).