Yama - Yararetara Yarikaese (1987)

Run Time - 109 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |  
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Japan's yakuza keep tabs on everything that goes on in that country and are especially deeply involved with anything criminal that goes on. That's only natural, since they have been the country's criminal ganglords for centuries and even had a hand in setting up Japan's current government (they were unwittingly aided in this by the American occupiers). As a consequence, their influence reaches deeply into Japanese life. The courageous makers of this documentary attempted to expose some of the yakuza's extortion tactics during labor negotiations in 1984 and 1985. The original director was killed execution-style two weeks into the filming. Bravely, the cameraman took over directing the film and was killed about a year later. Perhaps the survivors who edited the film were nervous about having anything to do with it, as the finished film was reportedly very uneven. However, even with unnecessary digressions and unclear editing, this unusual film captures real gangsters in the act as they extort money from slum residents and construction day laborers. The name "Yama," incidentally, refers to the god of death.