When Brooklyn based filmmaker Erik Shirai went to Japan to shoot an episode on Buddhist cuisine, he did not expect to come back with a story about a saké brewery. It turned out, however, that after traveling to Japan, his original story wasn’t as interesting as he had hoped. Looking for inspiration while abroad, he took a tip from the president of a family-owned saké brewery (who he had met while fundraising for the previous project) and decided to visit.
Shortly after he began to film at Tedorigawa, he was astonished by the committed lifestyles of these brewers and realized that this was a story that deserved to be told — and that’s where he needs our help before Monday, September 2.
‘The Birth of Saké‘ tells the compelling story of the traditional saké-making lifestyle in the Ishikawa prefecture of northern Japan. It follows the lives of a small team of about ten brewers as they commit six months of each year to this surprisingly involved and labor intensive operation.
In addition to each worker waking up at 4 a.m. every morning to work the rice by hand, they are expected to leave their families to focus on the process and production. The brewmasters, who are considered to be the “fathers” of the process and who usually have been making saké by hand for over 50 years, actually never leave the premises as their sensitive intuition is the guide to crafting each batch. From start to finish, they are physically involved with each step of the process as it, quite literally, goes through their hands.
Erik is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the completion of this visually captivating story. Although he was able to film much of the procedure, he would like to round out his documentary film by capturing the lives of each of the workers during the saké offseason. Many of them come from long lines of farmers and are as equally committed to their operations and families during one half of the year as they are to the saké brewery during the other. Ideally, Erik will also be able to capture their return to the brewery in October.
You can watch the trailer to see Erik’s mesmerizing shots for yourself (as elegant as any shot in ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’), as well as learn about Erik’s personal motivation for completing this project. Also, be sure to donate to and spread the word about his Kickstarter campaign before it’s too late!
Ideally, his work will help us all have a better understanding of the commitment and diligence required of this level of craftsmanship. As long as we sip saké, may we never forget this centuries-old tradition…