An Interview with Andrei Schwartz (Director)
Whether a Film Is Genuine or Not Is the Only Issue
Q: It took you six years to move from the planning stage to beginning shooting, so what kind of difficulties did you face?
AS: Sourcing production funds took a long time. It was tough, but I was determined to make this film. However, there were things I lost in those six years. My inspiration for making the film was meeting certain people, certain protagonists at that pier. They were quite remarkable, so I thought “Hey, this is good. I want to make something with them.” But because of the time it took, I lost those people as they had been. A 12-year-old boy isn’t the same when he turns 16. In a way, it was like losing a first love. What I gained as a result was not my first love but a wife, and that’s how life is.
Q: What aspects of the people of the Apolonovka pier interested you?
AS: Everyone there had a dignity to them. Even though some appeared to be extremely weak, no-one went to ruin. I was strongly drawn to the balance of dignity and fragility in their faces. Dignity and fragility emerge within me in my own daily life. I think that they exist within each of us . . . After all, films are a reflection of their makers themselves. If I know one thing at all, it’s myself. Sometimes I look for places where I can sense a part of myself, and other times I’m looking for faces that overlap with my own memories. I was also drawn to Galina, the elderly woman who appears in this film, because her personality resembled that of my mother.
Q: Your film reminded me of when I swam in the sea as a child.
AS: Interestingly, people who saw the film in Germany said it reminded them of lakes they visited in their childhood. So it has a universal quality. This is what’s interesting about documentaries. Things seem very familiar, and at the same time completely different. That’s what documentary films are all about. Whether a film is real or not isn’t an issue. The only issue is whether it is a genuine film.
From the moment I brought my camera onto the pier, the surrounding situation changed. Something became unnatural. People began acting differently than they did before. And various things happened because there was a camera there. Initially, the children didn’t gather in a group at the pier. I searched all summer for groups of children like the one I met when I was first planning the film. They’d been my inspiration, but five years later when I started filming they were no longer there. However, when we filmed there, they began gathering in a group. I’d been searching for exactly that kind of group, so I was very pleased. They found a reason to come together, so they formed that group. For the film . . .
I don’ think that we made a film about the people on that pier. You could say that they made a film about themselves. Like amateur actors, they played themselves.
(Compiled by Chiku Hiroko)
Interviewers: Chiku Hiroko, Murakami Yumiko / Interpreter: Saito Shinko / Translator: Don Brown
Photography: Nomura Yukihiro / Video: Shiba Katsuhiro / 2009-10-10