Tokyo Waka


Fri, Apr 20

   6:15 / FSC

Sun, Apr 22

   1:30 / PFA

Wed, May 2

   3:15 / Kabuki


USA/Japan, 2012, 63 min


John Haptas, Kristine Samuelson
John Haptas, Kristine Samuelson
John Haptas, Kristine Samuelson
John Haptas, Kristine Samuelson
Todd Boekelheide
Stylo Films, 1022 Natoma Street #1, San Francisco CA 94103. FAX: 650-725-0140. EMAIL: FACEBOOK: WEB:

Ticket info: The following screenings of this film are "At Rush": Wed May 2 3:15

Aptly subtitled “a city poem,” John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson’s documentary is as much a carefully etched, lyrical portrait of Tokyo and its denizens as it is a full-fledged rendering of the surprisingly rich life of crows, here embodying the wild, adaptive animistic spirit of the city. Populated with telling moments that add up to an uncanny snapshot of a metropolis’s “metabolism,” as one architect interviewed here puts it, Tokyo Waka takes its cues from the least visible of city scavengers: the crows that pick through garbage, cut stark black shapes in the sky and build astonishingly intricate nests of purloined hangers. Drawing from art, culture, Buddhist and Shinto spirituality and everyday anecdotes, the directors come at Tokyo’s elusive crows from all angles, gathering remarkable footage of the whip-smart animals making twig tools to find juicy insects in trees, utilizing cars to crack walnuts and pouncing on hapless passersby who happen to walk beneath their nests. Along the way Haptas and Samuelson also construct an evocative encapsulation of a post-bubble Tokyo at a very particular moment—one where otaku maid culture, a homeless population and a kind of youthful bohemia are finding their own precarious perches in the city, in parallel to flocks of omnipresent, intelligent avian outsiders.

with short:
A snapshot of life by the water’s edge of the Danube Delta doubles as a cunning portrait of the secret life of animals. (Andreas Horvath, Austria/Romania 2011, 20 min)

—Kimberly Chun

Co-presented by Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco

This is a Cinema by the Bay film. World Premiere.

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John Haptas

John Haptas practiced law in Oakland, CA before teaming up with Kristine Samuelson. He spent some years as a location sound mixer but currently works as a documentary film editor. His editing credits include Soundtrack to a Riot for FrontlineWorld (Emmy Nomination), Hunting the Hidden Dimension, a program on fractalgeometry for PBS Nova ("Pierre-Gilles de Gennes" Science Film Prize), and Inside Guatanamo Bay, a two-hour National Geographic Explorer special (editor/co-writer; Emmy nominations for Best Documentary and for Writing). He is currently editing a film about Susan Sontag.

Kristine Samuelson

Kristine Samuelson, a professor of art and art history at Stanford University, directed the Academy Award–nominated documentary short Arthur and Lillie (1975). She has since collaborated with Tokyo Waka codirector John Haptas on numerous films, including The Days And The Hours (SFIFF 2007), Empire of the Moon (SFIFF 1992) and Wrong Place, Wrong Time (SFIFF 1988). The pair also codirected a segment (The World As We Know It) for the omnibus film Underground Zero (2002).