An Interview with Raya Martin (Director)
Things Found on the Island at the End of the World
Q: Why did you decide to film Itbayat island?
RM: When I was in college, I heard from a professor that the Batanes Islands are extremely beautiful, and I wanted to visit. I didn’t have a concrete idea for a film, but I intended to shoot lots of footage and brought a bunch of tapes with me. I filmed continuously during my two-week stay and planned to edit the footage immediately upon returning from the island, but I left the footage untouched. After graduating from university I worked for director Kidlat Tahimik for about two years, and after that I decided to take another look at the footage. At the time I was only making fiction works, and I thought it would be hard to look through such a huge number of tapes, but I gave it a try.
Q: What kinds of discoveries did you make while filming the island?
RM: The most memorable was that the islanders and myself, a city boy, had completely different ways of interacting with people. They were all really shy, and at first they wouldn’t really talk with me. Of course it wasn’t like they harbored any ill will, but they just weren’t used to strangers. That’s one of the characteristics of Itbayat Island. And the islanders responded to my questions like they had no alternative, given that I was prowling around the island.
Q: There’s the scene where they go night fishing and eat the fish themselves.
RM: That’s right. Basically fishing is about catching enough to eat, and if they catch a little extra, they sell it. They let me eat the catch with them, and it was really delicious, without any seasoning at all. Also, the islanders like liquor, and they say that when relief goods reach the island after typhoon damage, lines first form at the alcohol dispensary. But it’s not like they drink and get rowdy, since it’s in the end a very relaxed place.
Q: In the scene showing seeds being sown in the slash-and-burned field, there are a lot of people working. Are they all islanders?
RM: Yes. The neighbors all help each other during the harvest. You thank the people who help out by treating them to a meal.
Q: There were several cuts showing scraps of paper with text written on them, with an emphasis on words like “combination,” but what was your aim?
RM: That’s the remnants of rolled tobacco, and you find it scattered around throughout the island. They rip apart books that they have on hand and roll cigarettes. For them books are not reading material, but rather readily available paper for rolling tobacco. I wanted to show their way of thinking about education. There’s a library, but there aren’t many books, and not many people use the library, so it seems like the culture of reading books hasn’t really taken root. Also, the school goes through high school, but people who want to go to university have to leave for the big island. In particular, there are a lot of cases where girls get pregnant and drop out of school, and have children when they are young.
Q: I felt like the islander’s lives and customs, and people’s expressions were very familiar.
RM: One thing I wanted to express is that human beings are undertaking the same kind of work everywhere, even on an island like this one, or any other place in the world. Everyone is dealing with the same kinds of problems, even if we all have our own life and way of living. That’s what I wanted to show in this film.
(Compiled by Inotani Yoshika)
Interviewers: Inotani Yoshika, Hayasaka Mitsuko / Interpreter: Kawaguchi Yoko
Photography: Abe Satsuki / Video: Yamaguchi Mika / 2005-10-11