Date: June 4, 2024 (Tue) - June 17, 2024 (Mon), Online venue: April 25, 2024 (Thu) - June 30, 2024 (Sun)

News & Reports

digging woman(掘る女):Reviewed by Laura MacGregor

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digging woman (2023) Ryo Chita

Very very shorts

Reviewed by Laura MacGregor

Why do people dig up the earth? To bury bodies, hide treasures or things we do not want others to find or know about.


In digging woman, the protagonist, an office worker, digs for none of the above.


The film opens with street sounds and a siren underlined by a piano playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations at distortedly slow tempo and female gasps. Already we feel that something is amiss.


Cut to Chika, a company employee wearing a red sweater over her white and grey office clothes, heading off on her lunch break, declining yet again an invitation from her co-workers to join them, who by now think there is something abnormal about her behavior. Then, her narrative voice then says that she has a secret.

Cut to Chika bending down in a meadow, frantically scraping at the soil with her hands, looking around to make sure no one sees her. The digging is her secret.


Cut to night and Chika leaving her apartment in secret, this time with a shovel. She reaches a meadow as day begins to break to the sound of an orchestra playing the prologue to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, a tragic love story. The music is fitting for Chika is also a tragic figure, obsessed with digging in secret.


Cut to Chika at a crosswalk in broad daylight in her office clothes and red sweater. Her sweater stands out amongst the passerbys in mostly monochrome. She starts to cross the road, as if in a trance, catching the eyes of her co-workers who  upon seeing her, laughto themselves in disapproval. She then stops in the middle of the road, frantically rubbing her hands to remove dirt that is not there with her narrative voice saying, “I didn’t want anyone to notice. I wanted to act normal….I just wished to live.”


The film ends in darkness with the opening music, siren and street noise, then finally the sound of panting. Will Chika’s wish to act normal come true? If blending in with the crowd is one way, then her red sweater and her disapproving colleagues are clues that it will not, and that the cycle of digging by night, working by day will be continuous.


What is it to be normal? Are you normal? Do you care? A thought provoking film by Ryo Chita.

digging woman

Streamed in the Very Short Program at SSFF & ASIA 2024 Online Grand Theater till May 24



Laura MacGregor is on faculty at Gakushuin University. Among the courses she teaches is one on film and the economy. She has been in Japan for a long time, and has been watching and studying about films and the film industry since the 1990s. SSFF & ASIA is one of her favourite film festivals in Japan so she is glad to participate this year as a volunteer translator and reviewer.






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