'Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo' zooms in on Japan's obsession with insects

By Gail Tolley
Sunday 23 October 2011 01:51

Whilst insects are often greeted with a shudder in the Western world, in Japan, these tiny creatures are a source of admiration and enthralment. It's this intriguing cultural difference that forms the basis of a documentary by Jessica Oreck, who spent six weeks in Japan filming the country's fascination with insects. "They couldn't get it into their heads that the same culture didn't exist in America," says the young director. "Every time I started oohing and aahing over a beetle, the entomologist would be like, 'What, they don't sell these in your grocery stores?'"

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, Oreck's feature debut, premiered at South by Southwest in 2009 before touring festivals across the world. It is a meditative look at a culture that for centuries has been influenced by insects, from the legend of the first emperor who named Japan the "Isle of the Dragonflies" to the contemporary craze of keeping beetles. "In the early 2000s it was a multi-million dollar industry. Not only were they selling beetles for several thousands of dollars each, they were selling everything insect-themed," explains Oreck. "Nowadays, more lasting is their devotion to fireflies, dragonflies and butterflies and their appreciation for cicadas and praying mantis, the insects that were at the heart of their artistic world as early as the 1100s."

'Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo' is in cinemas from 1 July

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