An Interview with Byun Young-joo (Director)
The Power of New Asian Currents
Q: What was your impression of New Asian Currents as a whole?
BY: It struck me that films are being shot in really a lot of different places. In the ’90s when my film was screened, I think it was China, Japan, Korea, India and the Philippines, and that was about it, but this time there was a tremendous variety, and I felt that filmmaking had spread to a lot of different countries. The shooting approaches and methods are different with each country, and serving on the jury wasn’t so much work as enjoyment of the diverse films from Asia that I got to see.
Q: You have won the Ogawa Shinsuke Prize in the past, but what is the significance of that experience for you? What kind of impact do you think winning the award will have on the filmmaker this time?
BY: For me it is a source of pride. I’m making a commercial film right now, but that doesn’t mean I can make a so-so film, since I received this award I can’t make a sloppy film. That’s how the award makes me feel, so I think it set something like a spiritual standard for filmmaking inside of me. I think this year’s award recipient will be influenced in ways that I just described. The award commemorates Ogawa Shinsuke, and I think this holds two meanings. Ogawa believed that regardless of the era, documentary films should show the truth of that era. Also, Ogawa took interest in and cared for young filmmakers in Asia. I think the award is extremely meaningful, as it carries Ogawa’s name.
Q: What is the meaning of this film festival for you?
BY: It is a school. This time I saw about four films a day on average. Everyone says it must be tough, but that’s not the case at all. People don’t change suddenly because of just one thing. For each filmmaker there’s a unique film style, and you won’t see someone take up a style completely different from his own. If you’ve seen films by ten people, there will be ten different filmmaking styles, and just because you’ve seen those films it doesn’t mean that your own style will change, but it cultivates your own methodology and approach to filmmaking to realize that there are also these other films in existence.
Q: From what you’ve seen until now, what kind of influences have documentaries had on society?
BY: First, there’s the question as to whether cinema can influence society at all. I don’t believe that cinema has the power to change the world, but I think it can empower those who want to change the world. I think documentary films are something like antiseptics for society. A documentary film is something that will always continue conveying the truth, something that never rots, I think.
Q: How do you want this film festival to progress in the future?
BY: I just want this film festival to survive, in whatever form. This film festival particularly gives hope to those making independent documentary films in Asia. Perhaps it will be on a smaller scale in the future, but when Asian independent filmmakers come to this festival, they feel that they are watching films that are in dialogue with the world, that are confronting the world, and that they are studying such films. That’s why I want to see the film festival continue for years to come.
(Compiled by Hiroya Motoko)
Interviewers: Hiroya Motoko, Takada Ayumi / Interpreter: Nemoto Rie / Translator: Ann Yamamoto
Photography: Shimizu Kai, Kaito Yoshimasa / Video: Shimizu Kai / 2007-10-10