Release date: 1998
Director: Tatsuya Mori
Who should watch this movie: People fascinated by cults. Fans of documentary film.
When should you watch this movie: Only after you’ve done your research. Context is key.
The sell: In 1995, there was a deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway, carried out by an extremist death cult called Aum. “A”, directed by Mori Tatsuya, was made in the wake of Aum leader, Shoko Asuhara’s, arrest. Mori and his small crew take one hand held camera and with it piece together a portrait of life on the fringes. The film focuses primarily on Aum spokesperson Hiroshi Araki, who is one of the few members permitted to speak to those outside of the cult. Mori’s goal with “A” is to be objective and present an unbiased document on life inside the cult – A difficult stance to justify in the wake of a deadly attack. And yet he remains doggedly committed, refusing to involve himself, even in moments of violent confrontation. “A” turns a critical eye toward the process (and theoretical foundation) of documentary filmmaking. It confronts the audience with their own expectations about how information is supposed to be presented. It asks us to think long and hard about who deserves a voice, and is consequently a challenging film to grapple with.