A seaside village at the coast of Japan: women clad in white scarves jump from a boat into to the turquoise sea. Few kicks is all they need to reach the seaweed-filled silent depths, where they use their keen eye and quick fingers to search for the abalone, the octopus, and the sea urchin. They use no breathing apparatus’. Their predecessors didn’t need one either. The Ama divers have searched food and pearls from the depths for over 2000 years.

Cláudia Varejão’s beautiful film Ama-San is a poetic depiction of this fading ancient profession. Film’s minimal, Japanesque style leaves enough room for the women, who are mostly in their fifties. It captures the simple, but tiresome work that they do, clad in a wetsuit and scarf, carrying only a knife. They live a contrasted life dividing their time between the mundane everyday of the shore and the silent mysteries of the deep. It is a rough trade, but there’s certain charm to it. And it has nothing to do with the silver screen fairy-tales seen in the James Bond film You only live twice (1967).

Like the sea, Varejão’s document alternates between the serene and the storm. Like a gust of salty sea wind, her film carries us away from the dark theatre, gently rocks us on the waves, safely afloat. Hours later, you can still taste the sea on your skin.

Susanna Peltonen / Translation: Tuomo Karvonen

Language: Japanese
Subtitles: English


  • Director: Cláudia Varejão
  • Country: Portugal, Switzerland
  • Year: 2016
  • Length: 112 min
  • Age limit: K7
  • Format: DCP
  • Cinematography: Masakazu Akagi, Cláudia Varejão
  • Editing: João Braz, Cláudia Varejão
  • Audio: Takashi Sugimoto
  • Production: Vadim Jendreyko, João Matos/Terratreme Filmes


  • Kinopalatsi 6: Tuesday 24.1 at 19:15
  • Kinopalatsi 8: Friday 27.1 at 17:15