The Witches of the Orient
The story of the legendary, Olympic-winning women’s volleyball team is told by its surviving members in this thrilling, archive-driven documentary.
Julien Faraut, director of the impressive John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection here takes on the story of a women’s team who won gold in volleyball when it made its inaugural Olympics appearance at Tokyo in 1964. The film’s title is the moniker the team had earned over the course of the previous decade. Formed in the late 1950s by workers at the Nichibo textile factory in Osaka, the team went on to enjoy 258 straight wins, culminating in their Olympic success.
There’s much footage to be enjoyed from that tournament and the many games they played in the lead up to it, as well as life in Japan during that era. This is intercut with recent interviews with the surviving members of the team. Their reminiscences give the film its heart, but it’s Faraut’s assemblage of the archive footage that gives it its thrill. Like In the Realm of Perfection, Faraut’s approach takes The Witches of the Orient far beyond the confines of the sports doc, creating a fascinating portrait of a bygone era.