Recently was brought to our attention, through Adaism, the new project of the Portuguese director Cláudia Varejão. Having exhibited last year at Fundação Oriente the photographic side of the documentary Ama San, the 2016 film - presented in the last few days at the Visions du Réel festival - is an unique documentary piece for its aesthetic and poetic value, as well as the ethnographic and social study. As the result of two trips of the director to Japan to capture the lives of Ama San (meaning people of the sea in Japanese), divers that for over 2000 years seek their livelihood on the seabed, the documentary reflects the traditions of Japanese society, this unique lifestyle and the lives of these courageous women, diving in apnea up to twenty meters deep to collect abalone and other shellfish. In an interview for Executiva, Claudia Vrejão sums up perfectly what we felt after seeing the movie trailer: “The Amas are an exception in a patriarchal society like Japan. They're courageous and independent and their image is the opposite of Gueishas. Amas are stronger and more courageous than men, who watched them going out to sea. They represent the strength of women.”
“A dive, the midday sunlight filtering down through the water. The air in her lungs has to last until she can dislodge the abalone from the rocks at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and finally resurface to breathe again. Without the help of a dive cylinder or any other apparatus to enhance her ability to stay underwater, her whole body is pushed to the limit. Dives like these have been carried out in Japan for over 2000 years by the Ama-San, which literally means - women of the sea. These women, who occupy a special place in Japanese culture, are at the same time revered and misunderstood.
The Ama-San have earned their status as collectors and guardians. What they do, calls into question not only the traditional role of women in oriental society, but also the very nature of femininity itself. This film follows the everyday lives of three women of different ages who, for 30 years, have dived together in the sea around a small fishing village on the Shima peninsula. Shot between the silent, underwater world and rural life on land, this film is a unique portrait of a tradition that is not expected to survive much longer. On the whole, the women who still dive today are between 50 and 85 years old.”