“Benshi” Silent Film Narrator to Perform

“Benshi” Sakamoto Raiko, a performance artist who provides live narrations for silent films, will perform on Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 6 p.m. in the KJ Auditorium. The two films to be shown will be Jirokichi the Rat (1931) and Kid Commotion (1935). A panel discussion with Visiting Professor of Film Studies Scott MacDonald and Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literature Kyoko Omori will follow the film. The event is free and open to the public.

As soon as moving pictures were introduced to Japanese audiences around the turn of the 20th century, the live oral performing tradition of “benshi” flourished. In the golden age of benshi performance in the 1920s, there were thousands of performers in Japan. Each benshi provided live narration for silent films (both Japanese and Western films) of their own, and viewers often went to movies to see their favorite benshi’s performance.

Raiko began his benshi training in 1997 when he joined a narrative group managed by Matsuda Film Productions. He made his formal debut in December 2000. The main venues of his live katsuben performances include small theaters, mini-movie theaters, welfare facilities, shrines and temples. He has approximately 50 films in his repertoire including Kurama Tengu, Banba no Chutaro Mabuta no Haha (Banba no Chutaro, In Search of Mother), Kunisada Chuji, Kodakara Sodo (The Treasure That Is Children), Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari, and The Adventurer.

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