Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The 'speech-man': Screen translation and the benshi tradition in Japan

We are very excited about our upcoming conference on 'Splendid Innovations' in the history of film translation, focusing on the 1920s and 1930s and the arrival of sound. We have an extraordinary international line-up of speakers: for the full list, or to register, click here.

Alongside this event, we are delighted to be featuring an open evening showcasing the Japanese tradition of the benshi, or film narrator. Benshi performed alongside the film, and were big stars in Japan in the silent period. Here's a mention of the benshi from an American newspaper report of 1927:

 Snippet from the Lincoln Star, 10 July 1927, from

(I should say that despite the phrase 'speech-man' benshi are not only men - for instance, the distinguished benshi Midori Sawato). There are some more details about the work of the benshi here. See also Markus Nornes' wonderful book Cinema Babel: Translating Global Cinema.

Our benshi is Kataoka Ichiro, a distinguished performer who has taken part in film screenings around the world. You can find more information on Mr Kataoka's background here. The event will also feature Professor Markus Nornes, a specialist in Japanese cinema as well as author of some of the most interesting work on audiovisual translation. Mr Kataoka and Professor Nornes will present narration for short films from Japanese and English, and there will be an opportunity for questions and answers. For more information, here is a clip of Mr Kataoka performing:

The event is designed to be accessible for non-Japanese speakers, though Japanese speakers are of course warmly welcome. Feel free to circulate the flyer below to anyone you think might be interested. To register for this event, see the event webpage here. The event is free, but registration is required.

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