Interview: Jordan Cronk | Video: Kurt Walker
The body becomes a site of both physical and psychosomatic inquiry in Caniba, the latest feature from directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, founders of Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab. Centered on notorious cannibal Issei Sagawa, who in 1981 killed and ate a female student while studying in Paris, Caniba confronts its inflammatory subject through disarmingly intimate conversations with Sagawa—who’s been living as a free man in Japan and supporting himself off his infamy in the decades since—and increasingly disturbing encounters with his brother and caretaker, Jun. Bringing their anthropological practice to bear on perhaps the most foul of human degradations, Paravel and Castaing-Taylor explode the confines of the portrait film through a disorienting aesthetic palette that pushes the literal and figurative focus of the frame past the bounds of the corporeal and into the dark recesses of the mind.
Prior to Caniba’s U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival, Paravel and Castaing-Taylor sat down to discuss the project’s origins, their initial encounters with Sagawa and his brother, and the development of the film’s uniquely provocative look and feel.