YIDFF 2005 International Competition
Africa United
An Interview with Olaf de Fleur Johannesson (Director), Ragnar Santos (Cinematographer)

I Want to Film People Who Are Unusual

Q: What were your intentions when you were filming? Did you have a lot of leeway during the shoot?

Ragnar Santos: I was pretty much able to do everything that I wanted to do, without any restrictions. Sometimes the things the director wanted to do and I wanted to do were a little bit at odds, and so we talked it through and compromised. Even so, for example we both thought it was a good idea to start using the small camera. Early on, we’d realized that things weren’t going well with the large camera. The players on the team weren’t able to move naturally. A few weeks into the shooting, we started filming with the small camera. And then they forgot that the film crew was around. We shoot from two to three years, so during that time they got used to us filming and stopped paying attention to the camera.

Q: Right before the scene where you follow one of the team members to Serbia, you inserted images of war. Why did you do this?

Olaf de Fleur Johannesson (OFJ): Because it is part of his homeland. He came to Iceland because of the war. So it was necessary to show that. It’s the same reason for going to Morocco in the film.

Q: You follow team members to a lot of different countries in the film.

OFJ: We needed to show the background of the people in the film. I wanted the audience to be able to actually smell the countries. Just a little.

Q: During the editing stage, were you in the lead?

OFJ: We had shot around 200 to 300 hours of footage. The editor, my younger brother Benedikt, watched all of the footage, spliced it up, and assembled it in order. To put it simply, I had my brother go shoot the games, and had him transfer the footage to the computer. Two weeks later I—and later Santos—looked at his rough cut and picked up the scenes that we liked, and based on that my younger brother moved ahead with the editing.

Q: It’s really wonderful teamwork.

OFJ: I think we were able to cooperate with one another because we each had different roles. In general, the breakdown was that Santos mainly did the shooting, I was directing, and Benedikt did the editing.

Q: What about your next project?

OFJ: I just finished the editing for my next film. It’s about a Buddhist monk, filmed over a ten-year period, and is scheduled to be released next year. And before coming here, I was in the Philippines preparing to shoot a film about “lady boys.” We’re planning to start shooting next year.

Q: When shooting a film, what kinds of things do you draw inspiration from?

OFJ: I want to make films about people who are not ordinary. People who are unusual, or who have made decisions that are baffling to those around them, like Buddhist monks who have decided to get married or “lady boys” in the Philippines. I turn the stories into film, and show them to ordinary people. I want to show the kinds of lives that exist in other regions in the world. I think that in order for people to understand each other, it is important to know that these kind of people exist in the world. So the films I make are a little bit unusual.

(Compiled by Nakajima Asami)

Interviewers: Nakajima Asami, Hikino Nagisa / Interpreter: Saito Shinko
Photography: Oyama Daisuke / Video: Oyama Daisuke / 2005-10-08