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Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo

No, not a Toho creature feature, but a diverting, slightly meandering, mini- DV-shot documentary on the Japanese love for insects. Written, edited and gamely directed by 29-year-old cinephile Jessica Oreck – an academic at New York’s Museum of Natural History, who names all her pet insects after film directors – the film is presented as the first of an intended series of ‘unconventional’ nature documentaries redefining science education.

As a film, it’s structurally poor, incidentally rich. Given its low-fi visuals and subtitled Wikipedia-level Shinto philosophising, it’s probably best viewed as a curious, vaguely Herzog-ian, cultural travelogue rather than a candidate for an Imax experience for school outings. There’s no authorial voice and the narrated historical context – on Buddhist reverence, haiku poetry, paddy-field eco-systems, the peculiar Japanese fascination for the miniature and precise – is strangely intermittent and impersonal.

But, as we tour insect emporia, pore over the case-and-pin outfitters, meet the breeders, collectors, catchers and rearers and go into the night in search of flies – fire and dragon –there is fun and instruction to be had, most of it, it must be said, deriving from the resourceful, caught ‘on-the-wing’ camcorder work of Sean Price Williams.

Release details

Rated: U
Release date: Friday July 1 2011
Duration: 90 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Jessica Oreck
Screenwriter: Jessica Oreck
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