Eastern Memories


Documentary Films | 2018 | 86 minutes

Stranger Says: You’d think there would be more egregious displays of Orientalism in a documentary that fuses the journal entries of a late-19th-century Finnish diplomat (G.J. Ramstedt) with visually stunning, modern-day footage of Mongolia and Japan, but these documentarians largely avoid that. The film mostly focuses on Ramstedt’s observations of Mongolian and Japanese philosophy, namely various iterations of the notion of impermanence. The juxtaposition of the contemporary footage with the voice-over of Ramstedt’s journal nicely demonstrates East Asian expressions of the concept of permanent impermanence, and many of his observations about language are fascinating, if not occasionally dour. Top of my list of films to watch either completely stoned or extremely sober. (RICH SMITH)

SIFF Says: A century ago Finnish linguist G.J. Ramstedt visited Mongolia and kept a diary; now, his words form the spoken backdrop for footage by two directors retracing his footsteps.


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Film Credits
Niklas Kullström, Martti Kaartinen
Michael O'Flaherty, Voice of G. J. Ramstedt
SIFF 2019