The Project

Western society often seems like a temple for individual effort and achievement; it insists, “you are directly responsible for your success or failure.” However, this individualistic mentality overlooks the collective power of communities.

At one end of an extreme spectrum, communities can spark revolutions - on the other hand, their transformative impact can appear in the more subtle form of a team.  Regardless of its form, the unifying power of a shared goal endows an individual with the ability to achieve at a far greater level than he or she would be capable of alone.

Social psychologists have researched this phenomenon through experiments and statistical analyses; we, Gabriel Aguto, Chandler Collins, Keelyn McCabe and Blaise Sevier, intend to explore it through the lens of a camera.  

Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China

Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China


This coming semester, our team will attend Hitotsubashi University to examine community formation in Japan centered around a unique focus:  long-distance running.  Our decision to investigate this specific topic stemmed from a fusion of personal and academic interests.  From an academic perspective, UVA’s Mobility and Community Forum (of which we are  members)  presented the opportunity to conduct ethnographic research abroad in order to better appreciate how community formation varies across cultures.

During the initial phase of our research, we discovered Adharanand Finn’s book, The Way of the Runner, whose account of the evolution of Japanese ekiden teams (and their influence on surrounding communities) inspired us to explore the topic more closely. As a national sport, Japanese Ekiden teams are highly disciplined long distance runners who compete as a relay team and cover more than 221 km during a race.


the way of the runner.jpg

Unique to Japan, this sport provides the perfect outlet for honing our videography skills.  The combination of this personal desire with an academic component resulted in the birth of our project. We are curious to understand how Japanese ekiden teams reflect longstanding societal values as well as capture this dynamic on film.