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Documentaries on Akira Kurosawa

AK Chris Marker footage

What’s a better way to tell the story of a filmmaker than through film? Not surprisingly, a number of Akira Kurosawa documentaries have been put together over the years.

Note that short documentaries that are solely available as extras on home video releases are not listed here. To get more information those, see the DVD and Blu-ray sections.


A Message from Akira Kurosawa: For Beautiful Movies

Directed by Hisao Kurosawa. 2000. 81 minutes.

A Message from Akira Kurosawa, put together by Kurosawa’s son Hisao Kurosawa, is a 98-minute documentary that includes ten thematically collected interviews with Kurosawa, filmed towards the end of his life. The director discusses his film making and lifelong quest to make the perfect, or “beautiful”, film.

The documentary-interview is included on Criterion’s release of Ikiru. It is also available as a separate release from Japan (see Amazon.co.jp), but the DVD comes without English subtitles.


Directed by Chris Marker. 1985. 75 minutes.

Chris Marker’s A.K. is a unique 75-minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of Kurosawa’s Ran. Marker’s observational camera follows Kurosawa and his crew on location, and presents a fascinating fly-on-the-wall look at the production that allows you to simply observe what is going on, with fairly little narration.

A.K. is made available on many DVD and Blu-ray releases of Ran.

Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create

Produced by Teruyo Nogami for Toho Masterworks. 2002.

The Toho Masterworks series It is Wonderful to Create is among the most wonderful things ever produced, at least if you are a Kurosawa fan. The series consists of episodes of varying length, typically between 30 and 60 minutes, which chronicle the making of Kurosawa’s films. Altogether 21 of Kurosawa’s 30 films are covered by the series: basically, the ones that he shot for Toho studios. The series was produced by Kurosawa’s long-time aide Teruyo Nogami and features interviews with practically all of Kurosawa’s key collaborators who were still alive at the time of making the series.

Unfortunately, the series has never been made available on its own. Instead, episodes have been included on home video releases both in Japan and elsewhere. Most of Criterion’s newer Kurosawa releases include subtitled episodes covering the released film, although the Eclipse ones sadly do not.

Akira Kurosawa: The Epic and the Intimate

2010. 41 minutes.

Akira Kurosawa: The Epic and the Intimate is a French documentary film that consists primarily of interviews with Kurosawa’s European collaborators from the time of the making of Ran, with footage from the film interspersed between the talking heads. It is a fairly good overall introduction to Kurosawa’s working methods and his relationship with his crew.

The documentary has not been made available on its own, but can be found on Studio Canal’s releases of Ran.


Directed by Adam Low. 2001. 90 minutes.

Adam Low’s Kurosawa is a 90-minute documentary that looks at Kurosawa’s life and works. Originally broadcast on PBS in the US, the film follows a fairly conventional approach as it chronicles Kurosawa’s career. The film includes many interviews, more of which are provided on the documentary’s home video releases. The film is narrated by Sam Shepard, with sections of Kurosawa’s autobiography read by Paul Scofeld. It is a tribute, a celebration and a

A DVD, which comes with almost two hours of extra interviews, has been released as a region free disc by the Australian Madman Entertainment. There is also an American Region 1 release which can be purchased from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, and also contains the bonus interviews.

Kurosawa: The Last Emperor

Directed by Alex Cox. 1999. 50 minutes.

Kurosawa: The Last Emperor is a 1999 television documentary put together by the British filmmaker Alex Cox. Due to its length, the film is not much more than a basic introduction, but as such it works well.

The documentary is unavailable on home video, but can typically be found online on YouTube and other video services.

Kurosawa’s Way

Directed by Catherine Cadou. 2011. 52 minutes.

Kurosawa, la Voie (Kurosawa’s Way) is a 52-minute documentary directed by Catherine Cadou, a French film expert and translator who worked as an interpreter for Kurosawa during the making of Ran. Cadou also worked with Kurosawa on Dreams and had earlier provided a 14-minute featurette for the Studio Canal Blu-ray release of Ran.

Cadou’s documentary is a biographical account which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 as part of the Cannes Classics selection. It has since been made available as part of a French Seven Samurai home video release (see Amazon.fr) but remains unreleased for English speaking audiences.