YIDFF 2005 New Docs Japan
Letter from Rokkasho Village no. 1–no. 3
An Interview with Kamanaka Hitomi (Director)

I’d Like You to Understand This as Something Happening Right around You

Q: I’d like to hear about the process that took you from your previous work, Hibakusha—At the End of the World (2003), to this work.

KH: With the previous film, I asked why children in Iraq have to die from exposure to depleted uranium weapons. When I investigated where the depleted uranium weapons were coming from, I found out they were coming from the nuclear power industry. Nuclear power plants are in operation in Japan, and they produce depleted uranium as waste, and that gets used in missiles, resulting in people’s exposure to radiation. My motivation for making this work was the desire to see the roots of that sequence. Rokkasho Village appears in the final scene of Hibakusha, and I investigated it in the concrete.

Q: How do you pursue that question?

KH: The approach I took is to make no conjectures. I’m starting with the question “What is going on,” really with a blank page, not after having spent years investigating the nuclear issue. I wanted to try creating something original based on my own experiences, not something that came from other people’s preconceived opinions. Of course I had a basic concept, but I just set off for the location with the camera in hand, without doing any research in advance. So I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about the people I was filming.

Q: Why did you distribute it as “letters” on video and DVD before completing it as a film?

KH: I wanted to let as many people as possible know in real time what was happening on the ground, instead of spending one or two years shooting and then releasing the film at the end in its finished form. And I thought maybe I could get people interested in the film by using the “letters” beforehand, since with this subject it’s tough to get people’s attention. I want viewers to understand this as something that is going on in their own daily lives and not just as a story specific to Rokkasho Village, and to think about what they would do if they were in the same situation.

Q: It’s not easy to understand internal radiation exposure.

KH: This is a continuation from Hibakusha, but the atomic bomb has been ingeniously presented as harming people only when it is exploded. But in fact, radiation entering the body through food and other sources results in chromosome damage, and gradually wreaks havoc. This has been getting attention because of the damage wrought by depleted uranium weapons in Iraq, but the reality is that injury caused by internal radiation is tough to understand. It’s difficult to portray things that can’t be seen.

Q: What kind of film is Rokkasho Rhapsody going to be?

KH: I think it will be a separate work from Letter from Rokkasho Village. I couldn’t finish Rokkasho Rhapsody for the screening at this festival because I haven’t done the filming to bring it to completion. Permission to shoot doesn’t come through for a place that should be filmable, or it’s tough to show a balance between the pro-atomic groups and the opposition, though I’d like to shoot it that way. I can still continue filming, since it’s scheduled to be released next March. In fact, Rokkasho Rhapsody is the third part of a trilogy. The second part is about harm caused by depleted uranium weapons and the Bosnian ethnic conflict, but I haven’t found an opportunity to release it. When you go after a question, it’s hard to wrap it up with just a single film.

(Compiled by Kato Hatsuyo)

Interviewer: Kato Hatsuyo
Photography: Kato Hatsuyo / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2005-09-21 / in Tokyo

* Rokkasho Rhapsody was completed in 2006.