An Interview with Watai Takeharu (Director)
The World Seen from Iraq—Film as a Document
Q: Why did you decide to present this work as a documentary film?
WT: I wanted to communicate “what is happening in the world now” through a new approach, since I’d been communicating the news as a journalist via the mass media of newspapers, magazines and television, but the media of film was an unknown world. When people look back on the Iraq War in fifty or a hundred years, most people won’t be able to see images from the past on television, but films will be preserved into the future as “visual archives,” and can continue to be shared in the world.
Q: What were you aiming for when you filmed this work?
WT: Basically, in the case of video journalists like us, we don’t start out with the idea of “filming a work.” In the end, it’s a method for communication. I prefer calling it visual expression, rather than a “work.”
For me, this film is a means for communicating what happened in Iraq, what the Iraqi people are thinking, and what that war was about, more than artistry. Until now I’ve never done coverage just for a film, and I won’t in the future. The important thing is that I want to accurately communicate what happened there, to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and to leave behind something that can continue to communicate as an archival record.
Q: Why did you shoot the scene of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces from a distance?
WT: I think you can see many different positions within this film. First of all, there’s my position as the person filming. Then there’s the position of the Iraqi people who are air bombed, attacked and killed. What do they think of Japan? What circumstances are they in? And in addition, you see the position of the U.S. soldiers too. You see things like the U.S. army’s uncomfortable presence in Iraq and the U.S. soldier wincing in response to my questions.
In the midst of that, the Self-Defense Force scene shows the situation of the Japanese media crowding around the Self-Defense Forces, not the military activities themselves. I shot the scene in Iraq, but you can find that same situation Japan too. For example, in the general elections this term. Prime Minister Koizumi and the mass media that surround him are in a mutually advantageous relationship, with the politicians also using the media. That composition depicts the position of Japanese politics and the surrounding media.
I think you’ll understand if you see the scene in the film, but in response my own approach also questions the perspective of us viewers watching Japan’s Iraq War on television, not the relationship just between media and politics. For example, usually people who watch television go to see Prime Minister Koizumi’s face and physical person, more than to listen to his speech. That scene is contemporary Japan, and is also like a mirror.
Film basically reflects us and our society like a mirror, so all of those positions and attitudes get depicted. If you watch that Self-Defense Force scene without giving it much thought, you might just think Japanese media is idiotic, but I want you to go one step further with your imagination. I’d like you to make the connection that wait a minute, maybe that scene could be contemporary Japanese society, that maybe your own face could be part of the scene.
(Compiled by Ishii Rei)
Interviewers: Ishii Rei, Moriyama Seiya
Photography: Inotani Yoshika / Video: Hashiura Taichi / 2005-09-20 / in Tokyo