Stormy, snowy Ishikawa, Japan. Inside the white walls of the 150-year-old Tedorikawa brewery, a massive vat of rice steams away. Soon, it will be taken away by the workers of the brewery, sprinkled with Koji mold and yeast and go through a complicated series of massages, baths and fermentation cycles. This is the process of making sake, Japan’s staple rice wine, and Tedorikawa is one of the last remaining breweries that still makes sake the traditional way, placing human intuition and touch before machines’ reliability and performance. ‘The Birth of Sake’ places the viewer inside the brewery, introducing us not only to the dizzying process of making sake but also to the people who undertake this challenge. The brewery’s culture is fascinating: deeply hierarchical and organised, new staff can only enter at an apprentice level and those at the top have been working there for decades. Erik Shirai’s debut documentary as writer, director and cinematographer is a beautifully immersive piece of filmmaking, largely forgoing narration and interviews to allow the beautifully shot and presented images of the rice, the workers and the brewery do the talking.
Tereyuki "Toji" Yamamoto