At the 1997 Pia Film Festival, Japan’s largest indie-film event, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri won the second grand prize for “Kichiku Daienkai (Banquet of the Beasts),” his graduation project for the film program at Osaka Art University. Eurospace then screened the film at its Shibuya theater, where it became a long-running hit, and several overseas film festivals, including the prestigious Berlin Film Festival, selected it for their programs. A pleasant young man from rural Hokkaido, Kumakiri had gotten the kind of career launch that every fledging filmmaker dreams of.

There was one problem, however: “Kichiku,” which depicted the descent of a sect of 1970s student radicals into madness and murder, was a gory, bloody, thoroughly nasty piece of work that brought to mind George Orwell’s comment about the art of Salvador Dali: “It should be possible to say, ‘This is a good book or a good picture, and it ought to be burned by the public hangman.’ ”

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