YIDFF 2005 New Docs Japan
Japan’s Peace Constitution
An Interview with John Junkerman (Director)

Confronting Contradictions

Q: As a director from the U.S., why did you decide to make a film about Japan’s constitution?

JJ: I made this film about the Japanese constitution as an American because the Siglo producer Yamagami Tetsujiro proposed the idea. At first I had doubts about whether I could say anything about the constitution as an American. At that time, I had two thoughts. First, the Japanese constitution has a lot of international connections, and isn’t just a domestic issue. I think one theme is established through looking at the constitution from the world’s perspective and dealing with the Japanese constitution in the world context. Second, once I started filming, I found that the links with the U.S. were deep. The constitution was created under U.S. occupation. After that, there has been strong U.S. pressure to revise the constitution. The then Vice President Richard Nixon came to Japan in 1953, and said in a speech that Article 9 was a mistake and that it should be revised. U.S. pressure has continued since then and has gotten stronger in the past five or ten years, and in a certain sense efforts to revise the constitution are a response to US pressure. The U.S. made the constitution, and yet the U.S. is trying to revise it. Japan has resisted, and hasn’t revised it this whole time. It’s a contradiction, and ironic. But, after all Japan created the Self-Defense Forces, expanded them, and has sent them abroad in response to U.S. pressure. Japan is undertaking military actions, regardless of the constitution. Even with the peace constitution’s Article 9, there are U.S. military bases throughout Japan, and Japan has been indirectly involved in the Vietnam War and wars in the Middle East. So, I see the contradictions not only in the story of Article 9, but in that it is tangled up with a lot of complicated things.

Q: How does the response in Japan compare with your expectations?

JJ: It has been screened a lot more widely than I’d expected. In particular, there have been independently run screenings, and I’ve screened it several times throughout the country. When I first screened it, I had doubts about how interested people would be, but the response is amazing. One thing is that a lot of young people come to see the film. It’s like they come to see the film because they don’t know the history, or know much about the nature of the issue. But, after seeing the film, there’s a strong feeling that the constitution—Article 9 in particular—is very important, it needs to be protected, that we need to spread it. That’s the general response.

Q: What did you pay attention to when making the film?

JJ: I don’t use narration as a filmmaking tool, so the interviewees are talking directly to the audience. Everyone speaks very directly, so it has impact. Another thing is that all of the people who appear in the film speak from their own perspectives, and since audience members also have their own perspectives, they can draw their own conclusions. You end up wanting to put your own ideas in order—you feel like you have to. I think that came out well.

(Compiled by Moriyama Seiya)

Interviewer: Moriyama Seiya
Photography: Hama Haruka / Video: Hashiura Taichi / 2005-09-20 / in Tokyo