An Interview with Sato Makoto (Director)
Balancing on the Borderline
Q: I believe you made this film after Edward Said had already passed away. Did you confront his absence in a similar way to Memories of Agano (2004)?
SM: At the root of this work is the fact that I really knew nothing about Said. Whether in Palestine, Lebanon, where traces of him remained, or Cairo, nothing really caught me. They were all new places for me. In that sense it was totally different from Memories of Agano, when I knew the land and it held many meanings for me. I had no choice but to search for the places where he was raised and where traces of him remained, and find people to talk to there. I use the word “absence,” but the most this film could do was to try to meet people who, as Said said, balanced on the borderline.
Q: Distancing yourself from political dogma has been your consistent stance since Living on the River Agano (1992), but how did you do that this time?
SM: I didn’t want to make a film that simply talked about Palestinian issues through Said. Said himself wasn’t someone who talked about Palestinian issues. Certainly he made many very political statements, but that was only one side of him. One thing I learned chasing after Said, despite how uncomfortable it was for me, was that I had run up against that fact head-on wherever I went. In reality, Said came from a family in a priveleged class; his life wasn’t a typical Palestinian life. He always wanted to be on the fringe, separated from the mainstream wherever he was. Even now, there are many in and out of the country who talk about Palestinian issues from a variety of different positions. But I didn’t intend to film Palestinian issues from such a political context. I wanted rather to speak about what I could see looking at him from a non-political context. So one thing I focussed on was the three Syrian boys who lived in Said’s home for a time. I wanted to look at the problems Said proposed through people who were totally unrelated to “Said-like” things.
Q: One of Said’s principles was to affirm confusion and multiplicity.
SM: It would be very difficult to summarize Said’s ideas, but one thing I can say through this film is that there are many boundaries in the world, and many people are suffering in the fissures and friction at those boundaries. Palestine is very symbolic of that and is the global epicenter of many problems. Said lived in and spoke from within that place. Violence and fissures exist there, but at the same time a certain amount of diversity does exist. It’s true that it is organized in a way that leads to an agitation of nationalistic and ethnic positions. However when you push into individuals’ lives, there are elements of their lifestyles which are clearly not absorbed by greater causes—this is one point of view of the film. You can see that in the lifestyle of the Palestinian refugee camp and the Israeli kibbutz. Sometimes there you find old men who came from Russia with no idea about what was what. This is the reality in Israel. I thought the only way to start was with an appreciation of this kind of diverse situation.
(Compiled by Hashiura Taichi)
Interviewers: Hashiura Taichi, Kato Takanobu
Photography: Tanaka Rio / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2005-09-13 / in Tokyo