Director: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel

2017, France, 90 minutes, Digital, Not Rated

Language: Japanese with English Subtitles

Cast: Issei Sagawa, Jun Sagawa

Distributor: Grasshopper Films

Program Notes

In 1981 Paris, Issei Sagawa (then a 32 year-old student at the Sorbonne) gained international infamy when he was discovered discarding two bloody suitcases containing the remains of a classmate he had murdered, defiled and partially consumed, several days earlier. Considered unfit to stand trial for reasons of insanity, Sagawa was extradited back to Japan where he has lived freely in the care of his brother Jun ever since. He has managed not only to remain free, but to make his living off his crime; writing novels, drawing manga, appearing in innumerable documentaries, sexploitation films, and perhaps most confoundingly as a sushi critic. While he has escaped incarceration and profited from his crime, he has created a psychological prison of sorts for himself—and perhaps even more so for his caretaker brother. Indeed, the story is not Issei’s alone; his brother Jun has been deeply affected by the ghastly choices his brother has made during their shared journey. While Issei gets all the attention for his horrendous desires, Jun may be the more fascinating character.

A new documentary from the pioneering filmmakers behind Leviathan, Caniba reflects on the discomfiting significance of cannibalistic desire in human existence through the prism of one Japanese man, Issei Sagawa, and his mysterious relationship with his brother, Jun Sagawa. As a 32-year-old student at the Sorbonne in Paris, Issei Sagawa was arrested on June 13, 1981 when spotted emptying two bloody suitcases containing the remains of his Dutch classmate, Renée Hartevelt. Two days earlier, Mr. Sagawa had killed Hartevelt and began eating her. Declared legally insane, he returned to Japan. He has been a free man ever since. Ostracized from society, he has made his living off his crime by writing novels, drawing manga, appearing in innumerable documentaries and sexploitation films in which he reenacts his crime, and even becoming a food critic.

“You’d have a difficult time finding another film that contains this much fascinating and terrible humanity.” — Dan Sullivan, Cinema Scope


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