Congratulations to filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda, whose film Campaign just won a prestigious Peabody Award! Campaign, which aired on POV in July 2008, provides a startling, sometimes painfully funny view of Japanese electoral politics.

If you want to see why the film garnered a rave from the New York Times (A.O. Scott says it will “restore your faith in cinéma vérité“) and why the Peabody Awards recognized it for its excellence, Campaign is streaming in its entirety on the POV website.

Here’s the trailer for the film:

Filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda told us that Campaign actually came about by chance. He had been preparing to make another film when he learned that an old Tokyo University schoolmate, Kazuhiko Yamauchi (or Yama-san), had been selected by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to run for a key city council seat. Sensing an opportunity, Soda quickly got agreement from Yamauchi and the LDP — perhaps surprisingly, given the candor with which LDP local operations are shown — to film the campaign.

In POV’s filmmaker interview with Soda, he tells us about his friend Yama-san:

I met Yama-san at the University of Tokyo in 1989. We were classmates, although I never saw him in class because he never showed up. But every time there was a party, he came. He never missed a party! That’s how we became friends. At the time, Yama-san was living in a badly-maintained dorm right in the middle of campus. We all hung out there between classes and after classes, drinking beer, playing mah-jongg, talking about girls and taking naps. It was then that he and I became close.

But after that we didn’t see each other for almost 20 years. And then one day I learned that he was running for office. I was shocked. For one thing, as far as I knew, Yama-san was not very political. Also, he was running as part of the LDP, which is the most conservative party in Japan, and in my opinion, he’s very liberal, a very Bohemian type of guy who’s very free-spirited. So I sensed that it would be very interesting if I could shoot his campaign. I asked him if I could film, he agreed, as did the Liberal Democratic Party, and five days later I was rolling.

So how did this unlikely political candidate fare in the elections? Watch all of Campaign online to find out.

The Peabody Award Ceremony will take place on May 18, 2009.

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Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.