Most likely, you don’t watch the number of documentary film that I do each year. Most of the time, they’re incredibly serious in subject matter. This year already I’ve seen victims of the Syrian conflict, serial killer stories, and the horrific details every single chemical I’ve put into my body. Lighter subjects are like an oasis in a sea of misery and Ryusuke Okajima’s From All Corners not only light, but weird.
Okajima starts his film off with several Japanese citizens talking about the sentimentality of keepsakes. These items of little monetary value, whose value lies in its sentimentalities like cheap jewelry, photos, and childhood toys.
Then there’s Fuyuki Shimazu, a collector of cardboard and creator of cardboard wallets. To say he’s obsessed with cardboard is an understatement. His attraction is not to cardboard, in general, but in the art and design of cardboard boxes. Just walk through Costco or some other warehouse store and you see boxes and cases of some kind of product shipped in larger boxes. But also notice that someone had to design the images and logos on these shipping boxes.
Fuyuki has traveled to over 25 countries going through dumpsters collecting cardboard boxes. His favorite being a Coca-Cola box from Israel. Mostly because of the Hebrew writing on the outside. Getting boxes in Japan is much easier, these warehouses just let him wander around grabbing any box that he likes.
“…has traveled to over 25 countries going through dumpsters collecting cardboard boxes.”
Let go to the next level. He’s not interested in new boxes fresh off the press. He wants used boxes and performs kind of a forensic study on the box. He examines the color correction key for a sense of how the box design was printed. He looks at design’s color and how it relates to the products inside and their origin. Fuyuki then waxes on about the placement of each drag mark and random scuff on its face, because “every box has a story.”
It’s at this point, where I wonder if I’m being pranked. Fuyuki goes on and on about boxes as if Christopher Guest was directing him in one of his parodies. But alas no, this guy is serious; confirmed by his friends, family, and employers.
Every box design is a piece of art and like any good piece of art, it needs to be displayed. Instead of framing and hanging cardboard art on the wall, Fuyuki turns the cardboard into wallets. Not sure I would call it beautiful, but I’d definitely call it modern pop art. It’s a long and laborious process, but he succeeds in creating a fully functional wallet with sleeves for your credit cards.
I forgot to mention this is a 90-minute documentary. That’s a long time to talk about cardboard, but there is a story. One day, Fuyuki becomes fascinated with a yellow-green colored potato box. Most of the writing is in Japanese, except for the word “Potato” in giant English letters and the word is surrounded by three distinct potato characters.
“…it is what it is—a documentary about cardboard.”
Two-thirds of the documentary follows Fuyuki’s search for the original designer of this box created in the 60’s. It’s an investigation akin to an episode of Law & Order. Fuyuki goes to the potato warehouse in hopes of tracking down the designer and present his or her with one of his wallets made of the box.
I walked away from From All Corners with mixed feelings. At first, I struggled with the realization that I’m going to spend the next ninety minutes being lectured about cardboard art. But that’s my job, I have to watch it. There was a legitimate struggle in my mind between wanting to invest my time in Fuyuki’s story and merely watching a documentary about cardboard.
I hate this phrase, but From All Corners is what it is—a documentary about cardboard. Fuyuki’s life is sweet while walking that line between being earnest and absurd. If My Strange Obsession fascinates you, if you like quirky art stories, or you have ninety minutes to kill on something unusual, then From All Corners is right for you. Let me also add, if you’re a marketing student needing information about branding, this film offers some insightful lesson. Fuyuki’s honesty and passion are refreshing. Just the fact he can make a living producing cardboard wallets and other art is incredible.
From All Corners (2018) Directed by Ryusuke Okajima. Featuring Fuyuki Shimazu. From All Corners made its world premiere at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival in the Documentary Spotlight competition.
3 out of 5 stars