YIDFF 2005 New Docs Japan
And Life Goes On
An Interview with Kobayashi Shigeru (Director)

Fully Embrace “Your Own Life”

Q: Why did you start making this film?

KS: A friend of mine from university was working at the Second Biwako Gakuen, an institution for the permanently disabled. He started working there about thirty years ago, but occasionally I’d visit him and help out at the institution, and we kept in touch. On New Year’s Day in 2001 I got a call from that friend, saying that the facilities had aged and plans were underway to move the institute to a new building, and so they wanted me to make a film bearing witness to the residents’ lives there. At first I was half inclined to turn down the proposal, since I thought I knew the institution pretty well and the difficulties were obvious. However, I was looking at the residents with the question in mind of whether or not it would come together as a film, and at that moment I’d forgotten all about them. When I met them after a long absence, we’d all lived through the same interval of time, and we’d all aged. And yet, I’d completely forgotten about them. This was a huge shock for me. It occurred to me that if not for this film, their forty years spent living here might very well vanish into a dream, and I thought, “This must be documented.”

Q: The film conveys a lot of affection.

KS: It’s a work shot with film, a rarity these days. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with video. But, I wanted to do this on a grand scale. I wanted to get together a real film crew, and also have the institution make it feel like “we’re making a film,” not like “it seems Kobayashi is shooting a video on his own.” And so I got everyone’s “earnest” that they had to give it their all and work together. Works shot on film are good for that. In addition, I was going for visuals that let you sense the texture of their skin.

Q: Was there “earnest” on your part too?

KS: Actually, I suffered a stroke right before the shoot was scheduled to begin, and spent six months recuperating. I was taken by stretcher for the CT scan, and lying down the fluorescent ceiling lights looked like a flowing river! There are lots of children on stretchers in the institution, and I realized, “Ah, this is the scenery they’re looking at everyday.” I learned that with a disability, there was a world I could see for the first time. The pleasant feeling of the breeze when I went outside and moved around a bit. The brightness of the sky. It’s mesmerizing. I wondered how much of the world I could feel, even in a short distance of less than fifty meters. At any rate, I decided that when I got the camera, I’d shoot a scene where the sky appears at the end of a tracking shot of the ceiling in the institution hallway. In that scene, I want you to sense the future that awaits children with serious disabilities, and through the sky and clouds I hope you feel how wonderful it is to go outdoors.

Q: I felt refreshed after seeing the film.

KS: I’m really thankful that you watched the film like that. One thing I always think is that I want the people who appeared in the film to sparkle. I feel like the Second Biwako Gakuen residents have fully embraced their lives. They are dealing with difficult disabilities, but the way they accept life is tremendous. I want the audience to encounter these people. Because it becomes a film as the result of encountering a wonderfully wide array of people. I wanted to make a film that sparkles through relationships mediated by the camera. I hope that atmosphere gets conveyed to the audience.

(Compiled by Kato Takanobu)

Interviewers: Kato Takanobu, Kato Hatsuyo
Photography: Kato Hatsuyo / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2005-09-07 / in Tokyo