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The most unbeatable team you’ve likely never heard of gets a revolutionary treatment in this stylish documentary, which breathes vital new life into the sports film. Our heroes are the Japanese women’s volleyball team, who utterly dominated the sport in the 1960s, winning the Olympic gold medal plus a whopping 258 consecutive matches along the way—a record that still stands to this day. The squad began as a workers’ team at a textile factory, with all-night practice sessions under the ruthless training of their notorious head coach. By the end of their run, they were national icons, credited with inspiring Japan in its post-WWII malaise. Now in their 70s, we meet the surviving teammates at a lunch get-together, the camera orbiting around these casually tough champions with a reverence that recalls the opening of Reservoir Dogs. As demonstrated in his visionary John McEnroe documentary In the Realm of Perfection, director Julien Faraut has a genius for repurposing archival footage in new ways. The Witches of the Orient brilliantly intercuts a wide array of source material: training films, transcontinental broadcasts, and most memorably, clips from vintage anime and manga fictionalizing the team’s journey. Music is the motor that ties together and propels Faurat’s gripping montage, including new original songs by Grandaddy mastermind Jason Lytle. 2021 Rotterdam Film Festival. (MK)

Presented with support from UW-Madison Center for East Asian Studies.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    100 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
  • Director
    Julien Faraut
  • Producer
    William Jehannin
  • Cinematographer
    Yamazaki Yutaka
  • Editor
    Andreï Bogdanov
  • Music
    Jason Lytle