Sayonara Speed Tribes – film review
Sayonara Speed Tribes
Director Jamie Morris
Starring Kazuhiro Hizuki
The Bosozuku are legendary Japanese biker gangs – the subject of Jamie Morris’s new film, Sayonara Speed Tribes. Katie Clare and Laurier Tiernan take a look.
Sayonara Speed Tribes a documentary, funded in part through Kickstarter, chronicles Hazuki an infamous gangster and in his youth the former leader of the legendary Specter bosozoku crew. Today the Japanese police are turning up the heat and hunting down outlaw bikers: bosozoku culture is fading away forcing Hazuki to confront his past and face an uncertain future. With a special screening this weekend in Tokyo we asked Laurier Tiernan his thoughts on this unique insight into a sub culture of which little is known and even less spoken of.
They sometimes interrupt our sleep with their revving engines, and sometimes their antics strike terror into the hearts of Japanese people, but most of us know precious little about Japanese biker gangs, or ‘Bosozoku’ as they are called in their native tongue; meaning ferocious speed tribes. Even fewer of us would be tempted to investigate what makes them tick, but Jamie Morris’ daring documentary, Sayonara Speed Tribes, makes a valiant attempt.
Extensively interviewing and following legendary biker Hazuki (seen below in pictures from his youth and from the present day), Morris delves deep into the aging gangster’s life story, from his origins to his current-day crossroads, to give the viewer the full scope of life in Japan’s street gangs. Hazuki tells us of how he couldn’t concentrate in school as a child, that he was often distracted by the glamour of a motorcycle’s roar, and we are even treated to the story of the turning point when he decided to join a motorcycle gang, as bosozoku drove through his school yard, disturbing an assembly that had gathered to watch his principal’s speech.
Archival footage of the camaraderie as well as the violence of educating the newer recruits is at once touching and shocking. As the film progresses we are also treated to interviews with his mother, and scenes of Hazuki confessing his thoughts of leaving the Yakuza lifestyle he has fallen into, as he trains to be a kick boxer and passionately dedicates himself to studying the Tenrikyo religion.
In the end, whether or not the viewer can identify with the subject or not, a state of understanding and empathy is reached. Morris has captured a piece of bosozoku history perhaps as well as can be expected, considering the depth and complexity of the subject, as well as the intense secrecy surrounding it.
When asked what prompted him to document this very unique Japanese sub culture Director Jamie Morris says that when speaking to Japanese friends ‘I was warned to stay away from them. They were famous for two things: fighting and blocking traffic’. However the film maker was undeterred ‘I had to find these biker punks, and I had to film them. Over the course of several years I met and filmed bosozoku bikers from all over Japan. I felt that I had captured some amazing footage of bikes and young punks in uniforms, but I hadn’t found a story yet. Then I met Hazuki, an ex-bosozoku crew leader turned kick boxer (as I found out later also a yakuza gangster). He was obsessed with passing on culture to younger generations. He even wore a mock-up bosozoku uniform as a boxing robe at fights. He acted like a tough guy but I knew there was more going on there. He was a genuine character so I had to tell this guy’s story, and world needed to see these bikers in action.’
The DVD ‘Sayonara Speed Tribes’ is available from the Figure8 Productions website – special bundle packages are available and the website contain a wealth of additional information and footage.
As well as the documentary’s trailer a series of short films ‘The Speed Tribes Chronicles’ are posted to the Figure8 YouTube Channel
These introduce bosozoku photographer Yoshinaga, sociologist Uchikoshi Masayuki on Okinawa and many others.
Words by Laurier Tiernan and Katie Clare. More work on Louder Than War by Katie Clare can be found here.