“Poet on the Stone” at the 29th International Festival of Films on Art

Another festival of films on art (FIFA) starts this week and goes on until March 27th in Montreal, with screenings throughout the city, including the CCA, Cinémathèque québécoise, Geothe Institute, Grande Bibliothèque, Contemporary and Fine Arts Museums, Place des Arts and Concordia University.

Still from “Poet on the Stone”, a film directed by Kenji Hayashi, playing at FIFA

I was looking forward to seeing the only entry at the festival from Japan, Kenji Hayashi’s “Poet on the Stone”, about the natural stone sculptor, son of four generations of stone masons, Masatoshi Izumi. He worked closely with his mentor, Isamu Noguchi, succeeding his unfinished projects and creating his own masterpieces.

The film is beautifully shot, and the sounds of nature are soothing as well, as the camera follows the sculptor’s quests for finding stones to use in his public art pieces from the natural environment. Masatoshi Izumi has been commissioned to produce work for places such as Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Kyoto Concert Hall, Garden of Great Fall at Kyoto State Guest House and the roof garden of the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo. He remarks at one point in the film, that the clouds always look so interesting when he finds himself on location. In addition to showing much of his work, the film features the story of the commission for the National Palace Museum in Taipei, including picking out the stones and a glimpse into the technique of cutting.

Still from “Poet on the Stone”, showing Masatoshi Izumi at work

Masatoshi Izumi speaks with humility and knowledge. He is motivated by the desire to continue to improve his understanding of nature through the stonework. He often speaks of clouds and the sky reflected in the stones. The clouds reflected in his stone sculpture in the film are calm and beautiful, which is such a contrast to the scenes in the media of the recent natural disaster in Japan.

I was able to get in touch with the director, Kenji Hayashi, over email, and asked him if the sculptor could comment on the recent earthquake and tsunami in his country. As a philosopher and an artist who works so closely with nature, I thought that it is likely that he could share some insight that we are unlikely to get in the mainstream media. The thoughtful response from Masatoshi Izumi seems to reflect the beauty of nature, like the clouds are reflected in his sculptures:


Within the time and cycles of nature and space, this unprecedented catastrophe is a small matter.

Stones and water are the beginning of creatures and cannot be controlled by the human power. The men of today were forced to realize the terror of it. We must be humble about living.

When Japan was in the middle of the most shameful disaster of the war, my mentor, Isamu Noguchi encouraged people who were devastated, by designing bridges and domes with abstract forms, and lamps of traditional Japanese folk handicraft.

What I think now is that the nature is a beautiful thing. Stones, water and trees, all resonate and are beautiful. They do not begin to compare with artificial things for beauty.

What is beauty that supports spirit?

Mountains and rivers are eternal and forever young. When you turn around from the devastation and look over, there you can see mountains clad in deep greenery and rivers, too.


Still from “Poet on the Stone”

I saw the film last Friday, at the Musée d’art contemporain. There is another screening on Sunday, March 27 at 18h30, at Place des Arts – Cinquième Salle.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Mar 20, 2011 ]