About the Film

Why the Fools Dance is a short documentary following three Japanese performers finding their place in America through a dance called Awa Odori. Keiji, Reiko, Nao, and Mao are all Japanese immigrants who's mission is to spread Awa Odori across California and the U.S. In this dance of self-proclaimed fools they invite their audiences to drop their guard, join in and be fools too.

This film is produced and directed by Benjamin Michel.
 Photo by Benjamin Michel

The dancing fool and the watching fool, if we're all fools why not dance.

The Awa Odori festival grew out of the tradition of the Bon odori which is danced as part of the Obon "Festival of the Dead", a Japanese Buddhist celebration where the spirits of deceased ancestors are said to visit their living relatives for a few days of the year. The term "Awa Odori" was not used until the 20th century, but Obon festivities in Tokushima have been famous for their size, exuberance and anarchy since the 16th century.

Awa Odori's independent existence as a huge, city-wide dance party is popularly believed to have begun in 1586 when Lord Hachisuka Iemasa, the daimyo of Awa Province hosted a drunken celebration of the opening of Tokushima Castle. The locals, having consumed a great amount of sake, began to drunkenly weave and stumble back and forth. Others picked up commonly available musical instruments and began to play a simple, rhythmic song, to which the revelers invented lyrics.