YIDFF 2011 Special Invitation Films
Regarding the Lives of Others
An Interview with Daishima Haruhiko (Director), Otsu Koshiro (Cast)

Where the Humans Exist

Q: Where did the idea for this project come from?

Daishima Haruhiko (DH): At the beginning, this was a project to make one film for a group called “Ao no Kai” with wonderful cineaste members including Tsuchimoto Noriaki, Ogawa Shinsuke, Kuroki Kazuo, Higashi Yoichi and Kubota Yukio as part of a collaboration with 2008’s The Film School of Tokyo’s Advanced Documentary Class.

Otsu Koshiro (OK): But to begin with, “Ao no Kai” wasn’t something very focused, but rather, it was just a collection of people who were frustrated for not being able to work on their films, who would come together to discuss and debate matters. So, it wasn’t a group that had this certain goal or direction. To be honest, it wasn’t really a “group.” That is what I realized once we tried it.

DH: I was on the side of supporting my students as they edited the film but it did not get finish. At that time, Mr. Otsu was teaching a course at The Film School of Tokyo and it was just fantastic. And Mr. Otsu’s words started to synchronize with Tsuchimoto Noriaki’s interview. That is why I started this at “Ao no Kai” but, I decided to change the direction by focusing on Otsu Koshiro and Tsuchimoto Noriaki’s collaborative journey to reach the milestone Minamata series.

OK: Of Tsuchimoto’s films, the one that is most important to me is Chua Swee Lin, Exchange Student (1965). The way that film was made was so interesting. Tsuchimoto took on a theme that TV stations had turned away from. At a time with no money. The film that most significantly changed the traditional ways of film making was Chua Swee Lin, and thus the beginning of Tsuchimoto’s uphill struggle. Director Daishima thought up the idea to organize it all in that fashion.

Q: I believe there was great meaning having this film released after the earthquake. What are your thoughts about this?

OK: Including the TV broadcast cameramen, people are shooting whatever they can. Because it’s a sort of tsunami that only attacks once every several hundred years, everything anyone can see becomes astonishing. But where are the humans? By humans I mean the people who are capturing the shots as well. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the TV for three days straight after the earthquake, which got me depressed, and I almost started to vomit.

DH: What I wanted to express with Regarding the Lives of Others was how one can capture the victims with a camera, how one can stand close to the subjects, and how one can make accusations. Mr. Tsuchimoto and Mr. Otsu went in very carefully, stayed with them and lived with them to grasp how to correctly communicate with them. The thing that I want the new filmmakers to understand is that when you are to point a camera at someone who holds with them sorrow or anger, you need have determination and a sense of responsibility. Those are the things that Mr. Otsu and other predecessors have had and have done.

OK: To add to the point of accusation, my initial intent as I made the film was not necessarily to make an accusation about Minamata. It was just about humans. Watching human beings very closely, I could imagine what Chisso did, or what modern science did. What I really wanted to say with this film was whether or not it is moral for one to capture these images, even when they are incredible. It is about human beings’ dignity. Can I, as a human being, bear these people’s existence? Where are these humans? That is what I wanted to express more than anything.

(Compiled by Miura Tetsuya)

Interviewers: Miura Tetsuya, Sato Hiroaki / Translator: Kenji Green
Photography: Katsumata Erika / Video: Koshimizu Emi / 2011-10-11