I Told Our Story

Digital Video




I Told Our Story alludes to Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour (1959) and Chris Marker’s Level Five (1997), which itself references Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour. Imitating the two heroines of these films who lost their lovers acted by Emmanuelle Riva and Catherine Belkhodja, I Told Our Story casts the heroine as a Japanese woman enacted by the artist.


The love affair between a Japanese man (Eiji Okada) that initiates the storyline is set in the early 1950s in Hiroshima, when the memory of the atomic-bombing was still pervasive. Marguerite Duras, the scriptwriter of Hiroshima mon amour, describes the love affair assacrilegious’.*  Precisely referring to the comparison between the pain of the collective memory of the atomic-bombing in Hiroshima and that of the French woman’s personal wartime memory of the traumatic loss of her lover, the meaning of this term extends beyond the erotic betrayal.** This comparison, in Jean-Luc Nancy’s sense of quantification, brings the two different kinds of pain onto the terrain of commensurability.***


This scene is in Level Five equal to what Catherine Lupton describes as ‘her [Belkhodjia as Laura] willingness to compare her suffering to that of the Okinawan people’.**** Her ostentatious nature is reproduced by the narcissistic, actively gazed upon position of the Japanese woman which is tantamount to the employment of the first-person aesthetic of the selfie in the first half of the work. The second half of the work turns into the invited footage of the photographs that were taken by the Okinawans and the Americans who live in Okinawa by using their mobile phone cameras.


The title, I Told Our Story, alludes to the scene in which the French woman (Emmanuelle Riva) of Hiroshima mon amour, at the basin in front of the mirror, utters ‘I told our story’ with ‘us’ referring to her and her lost German lover. In mimicking this scene, with ‘us’ referring to the Japanese woman and her lover, I Told Our Story is presented as another story to be told.


Seemingly contraposing against Japan’ postwar grand narrative of growth, as well as the foundational narrative of Japan and the United States in Yasukuni Igarashi’s sense in order to narrate a story of exploited Okinawa, the Japanese woman betrays.***** I Told Our Story unfolds on these two films subsumed as the metanarrative, casting the Japanese woman as the sacrilegious position within postcolonial Okinawa, only to reproduce ‘Okinawa mon amour’ as Laura says.


* Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima Mon Amour, trans. Richard Seaver, New York, NY: Grove Press, 1961. p. 9.
** Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History, Baltimore, MA and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. p. 27. See also Stef Craps, Postcolonial Witnessing: Trauma Out of Bounds, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. pp. 14–19 and Kali Tal, “Remembering Difference: Working against Eurocentric Bias in Contemporary Scholarship on Trauma and Memory” in Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literature of Trauma, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, republished online <http://worldsofhurt.com/chapter-three/>, unpaginated, for post-colonial anti-Eurocentric criticisms of Caruth’s aforementioned book.
*** Jean-Luc Nancy, After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes, New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2014.
**** Catherine Lupton, “Terminal Replay: Resnais Revised in Chris Marker’s Level Five,” Screen 44.1 (Spring 2003): 58–70. p. 60.
***** Yoshikuni Igarashi, Bodies of Memory: Narrative of War in Postwar Japanese Culture, 1945–1970, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.
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