YIDFF 2005 New Asian Currents
Yesterday Today Tomorrow
An Interview with Naoi Riyo (Director)

Encountering Their Vibrant Lives

Q: How did you encounter Thailand, and also the two families who are the main subjects of the film?

NR: Meeting a Thai friend in the U.S. while I was in university changed the way I lived. There’s a Thai word “sabai” that means comfort, and the Thai always live with a kind of spiritual composure, no matter how busy they are. So after graduation I decided to go live in Thailand, just wanting to study and see how people lived. I met the two families, Pom and Achun, when I did a story for television about Japanese people in an NPO living in northern Thailand.

It was love at first sight. They had such vibrancy and joie de vivre as they played soccer. I wanted to convey that vibrancy, and I stayed on to continue filming even after the shoot for the television program was over. But they didn’t talk with me like that from the start. It took more than a year to enter their homes, through going with them to the hospital, taking the camera with me to their houses and then going home without shooting any footage, and things like that. I was somehow able to gain their understanding as I had them look at the footage that I shot, a little at a time.

Q: You captured their daily lives with extreme care.

NR: I observed their lives wondering how such vibrancy could emerge while they confronted the fear of AIDS. It’s the living while treasuring each moment and each day, over and over. That kind of daily life is part of the village too. Once Pom said “all people experience pain when they die.” When I heard those words, I thought maybe to live is painful. Life is fundamentally painful, so since pain is to be taken for granted, to the contrary Pom was able to live with a sense of tranquility.

Q: However, a harsh reality is revealed before the camera.

NR: I was trying to make the piece to overturn the stereotypes like HIV being sad, but then Boy’s symptoms suddenly took a turn. I continued visiting his home and his sickbed without rolling the camera for a while, and in the midst of this my own values about death collapsed. Seeing the figure of Boy, who lived with such passion. It’s not like there’s a disease called AIDS. AIDS is the result of weakening immunity resistance, and you actually die of an ordinary sickness. After I started thinking that way, my own fear of AIDS was allayed. However, once his symptoms appeared, Boy’s
interactions with the villagers ceased and it was just him and his parents—the three of them living together. I focused on filming their meals, as it seems eating, and interaction with people is what gives energy to live. I think maybe stealing that away would mean death. That’s what I felt within me.

Q: You said that the editing took a year, but what were you aiming for?

NR: First, I wanted to express the place and the passage of the three years just as it was. But Thailand doesn’t have four seasons. Two seasons, and two families. “Two Seasons” would have worked, but I added “Tomorrow” to the title in the hopeful sense that there’s a tomorrow because we live today. In total I shot 117 hours of footage, and I only depict a tiny part of their lives, but for myself too I wanted to make a film that would enable me to remember at some point. You easily forget films which convey an easy message, right? For my next piece, I’d also like to start shooting when I encounter vibrancy, rather than doing something with the theme set from the start.

(Compiled by Sato Hiroaki)

Interviewers: Sato Hiroaki, Ishii Rei
Photography: Ishii Rei / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2005-09-12 / in Tokyo