YIDFF 2005 BORDERS WITHIN—What It Means to Live in Japan
Tibet Tibet
An Interview with Kanamori Taro a.k.a Kim Seung-yong (Director)

I’m on a Mission to Make Enjoyable Films

Q: Tibetans aren’t still hoping for independence, are they?

KT: Fifty years have passed already, so I think maybe everyone feels like they have to switch modes and live out their lives with China. Given the reality that many Tibetans are still fleeing the country, I think probably it’s like they have no choice but to accept the situation, not like they really want to. There’s a similarity with zainichi Koreans in the sense of being unwilling immigrants.

Q: During your travels, you accompanied the Dalai Lama as you interviewed him.

KT: I thought the Dalai Lama’s spoken words were absolutely necessary in order to tell people about Tibet’s problems. So I was extremely lucky to get to interview him while accompanying him for a ten-day period. There are aspects of the Dalai Lama, such as his attitude towards regular Tibetans, that you can sense but not get in a thirty-minute interview. It seems to me that as a person, the Dalai Lama embodies Tibet’s spirituality. He’s grappling with Tibet’s problems while thinking of the world’s people, not just Tibet. And also, for some reason the Dalai Lama’s words have an impact on people abroad. Though everything he says is simple and utterly ordinary. For example, “If you can’t decide whether or not to do something, give it a try.” Simple, but it really hits home, and during the journey my own intentions to make the film were affirmed. Even when things don’t go well, more often I’m able to feel glad that I gave it a try. The Dalai Lama is truly one of mankind’s most gifted people.

Q: Did your ideas about ethnicity and culture change during the journey?

KT: Yes, my ideas did change. Before I’d thought that Japanese were more distinguished than Koreans, and the country was advanced. I grew up without telling anyone I was Korean, because I thought I’d be bullied by my friends. So, it wasn’t like there was actual discrimination. But, there was the imbalance of feeling Japanese, and then feeling Korean when I went home. I think most third-generation zainichi have feelings similar to my own. But through traveling to various countries for this film, I’ve come to think that people are really all the same. I decided to try living as a citizen of the world, without being bound by ethnicity. However, the Dalai Lama has gone so far as to live in exile in order to not throw away his ethnic pride. This coincides with my feeling that first-generation zainichi should hold onto their ethnic pride. Even now, Tibetans are doing their best to protect their own rights and identity regarding their ethnicity. I made this film because I was captivated by their attitude. When I first traveled to Korea, I kept searching for differences with Japan, but when I went back to Korea after finishing my two-year and three-month journey, my attitude had changed 180 degrees, to the point of thinking there’s no country that’s so similar to Japan. I couldn’t judge things by just looking at Korea and Japan. So, then I was also able to go public with my real name, Kim Sung-woong. That’s a big change in me.

Q: Are you thinking about your next work?

KT: I’m currently in production, but I want to convey the splendor of the ethnic clothing in China’s Yunnan province. I’m thinking of a forty-minute piece, with psychedelic music throughout. After all, it’s no fun if you get hung up on form, just because you say it’s a documentary film. I’m on a mission to make films that can be enjoyed. So, from here on out I want to keep on making documentary films that can be enjoyed.

(Compiled by Nakajima Ai, Sugawara Daisuke)

Interviewers: Sugawara Daisuke, Nakajima Ai
Photography: Omori Hiroki / Video: Sato Kumiko / 2005-10-08