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BRIEF: The films of Tanaka Kinuyo

Bet you don’t have these films logged on Letterboxd

The Pickford Film Center’s promotional poster for The Films of Tanaka Kinuyo showing from March 1 to March 29 at the Pickford Film Center in downtown Bellingham, Wash. Tanaka was one of the earliest female directors in Japan.  // Poster by Meghan Schilling

In collaboration with the Pickford Film Center and CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival, the Western Libraries present "Cinema East: The Films of Tanaka Kinuyo." To celebrate Women’s History Month, the Pickford Film Center is showing six films directed by Tanaka Kinuyo throughout the month of March.

Tanaka was a highly revered actress in Japan, beginning her career in 1924 when she was 14 years old. She acted in over 250 films and collaborated with multiple big names in the Japanese film industry such as Mizoguchi Kenji. 

Her final film was "Sandakan No. 8," which was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1975. She was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Actress just two years before her passing in 1977.

Tanaka began directing films post-World War II and directed six films from 1953 to 1962. It was common for Japanese actresses to retire young, as they became hired less often for roles as they aged. Tanaka dedicated her life to cinema and continued to work behind the camera when she could no longer find jobs in front of the camera.

Copies of Tanaka’s films are extremely hard to come by. They were never released on DVD or VHS and had never been shown in the U.S. until last year. 

Jeff Purdue, the film series curator at the Western Libraries, took notice of an independent film distributor in New York that was restoring Tanaka’s films and releasing them to the public. Purdue had previously worked with this distributor and was able to get copies of all six of Tanaka’s films, making this series a rare chance to view Tanaka’s full body of work.

The next film in the series is Tanaka Kinuyo’s "Love Under the Crucifix" which will be shown on March 11 at 1:45 p.m. at the Pickford Film Center. Click here for ticket information and the full lineup of films.

Aubrey Black

Aubrey Black (she/they) is a second-year news-ed major at Western. She enjoys making Spotify playlists and perusing used bookstores. 

You can contact her at

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