YIDFF 2005 all about me? Japanese and Swiss Personal Documentaries
Correspondence 10
An Interview with Kawanaka Nobuhiro, Hagiwara Sakumi (Directors)

Correspondence That Speaks the Language of Film

Q: What made you want to begin the correspondence?

Kawanaka Nobuhiro (KN): I received a letter comprised of photographs from the Canadian visual artist Don Druick, who had seen my film Playback. After that, we exchanged letters composed solely of photographs and images. I realized that there was something interesting about not using words and not having language mediate in the exchange of images, and I thought that maybe it could be done in Japan too. I wanted to try it with Hagiwara, whose personality and taste is completely different from mine. That was the origin of the project.

Q: Tell me about the work you made this time.

Hagiwara Sakumi (HS): For the past few years we’ve been constantly dealing with stories about death, and in the midst of that Kawanaka suddenly was hospitalized. I learned that he was filming even while in the hospital, and thought that had to be included in the correspondence.

KN: I thought that my own illness wouldn’t make a film, since it was just too real. Hagiwara’s mother fell ill right around the same time, and Hagiwara said he was going to film her. We’d been doing this for a long time, so I knew that Hagiwara probably wouldn’t film her openly. So, I decided on my side to film myself, with no holds barred. In the end what gave me the push in the back was Hagiwara’s comment, “have any of the world’s film directors ever pointed the camera at themselves like that?” There were shocking scenes, since I filmed to the hilt, but if I included everyday scenery that I happened upon, that everyday scenery would remain with viewers. That way, maybe it could become a film, and not just episodes particular to myself.

Q: What about Mr. Hagiwara’s scenes using water?

HS: Water and fire are used a lot in cinema, right? As long as there is something flickering like that, people will watch visuals even without a storyline. Because the moving image flickers. When human beings watch images, it comes from a basic desire for survival. Frogs can’t see things that aren’t moving. For frogs, all moving things are either enemy and food. Humans long ago couldn’t see things that didn’t move either. We can see them now because we can move our own eyes, which is called concomitant eye-movement. Moving my own eyes enables me to see things that don’t move. So I’m attracted by things that grab my attention, like flickering things, police car sirens and blinking lights. I mean, it’s a desire to survive from long ago. Watching films is the desire to survive, and to put it another way, it might be a desire for death. That’s where it comes from, so everyone ends up watching.

Q: What are the underlying things that enable Correspondence to communicate?

KN: With movies, usually you think up some special mechanism or do something special. But this film originated from utterly ordinary everyday life. By showing that kind of everyday life, it was like our own particular memories were not just particular to us as individuals, but were somehow connected. People always think that sunsets are beautiful and chirping birds are cute. I think maybe they stimulate memories that are buried within human’s cells. If these images are linked together, you can expand images within the minds of viewers that are independent from the intention of the filmmaker, as visual language without the use of words. I’ve come to think of that as being visual language. If you watch films just for theme, I think you end up overlooking something very crucial.

(Compiled by Ishii Rei)

Interviewers: Ishii Rei, Moriyama Seiya
Photography: Kato Hatsuyo / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2005-10-04 / in Tokyo