• Imamura (center) in A Man Vanishes (1967)

It’s already a great year for nonfiction cinema in Chicago. On Sunday—only days after concluding its Jean Rouch retrospective—the Gene Siskel Film Center begins a two-week series devoted to Japanese director Shohei Imamura’s documentaries. These films display as much creativity as Rouch’s in their approach to the nonfiction form—and an even greater disregard for journalistic neutrality. Rouch used the term provocation to describe his method of creating real-life events in order to film them, but Imamura’s documentaries are acts of provocation in a literal sense. The most shocking of these, In Search of the Unreturned Soldiers in Thailand (1971), climaxes with the director getting three of the title subjects drunk so that they’ll speak casually about atrocities they committed during World War II. (There are comparably jaw-dropping moments in the five other docs screening the series.) Imamura doesn’t try to defend his unorthodox methods or distance himself from the horrifying results; in fact he appears onscreen throughout his films, often shoving a microphone into an interviewee’s face. Fighting fire with fire, Imamura confronts the ugliness of Japanese history with deliberately untidy filmmaking.