YIDFF 2011 New Asian Currents
Unreal Forest
An Interview with Jakrawal Nilthamrong (Director)

On Filming in Africa

Q: I understand this film was made as part of a project.

JN: The very beginning of this film was the 2009 Rotterdam International Film Festival’s “Forget Africa” project. Twelve directors from different countries were sent to Africa to make films, with the goal of screening at next year’s festival. It was expected that we find an unknown local director to make a piece we’d screen in Holland, as shown in the documentary portion of this film. I wanted to participate because I was interested in views toward the Third World held among Westerners. Since long ago, Westerners have set-off for undeveloped lands and insisted on discovering and owning them. I see this as one kind of cultural aggression, and by putting myself in the same position as these Westerners I thought I might be able to understand their side.

As a result, the project was not a great success. The goal was to scout an African director with rich talent and contribute to their film industry, but in the end we weren’t able to change their situation. We alone returned with a profit, in the form of a film. I think that when Westerners venture into unknown lands, they still bring an initial desire to look for and discover their spirit there. As long as this attitude remains unconscious, I feel the surrounding circumstances, including these lands and their people, will continue to be harmed.

Q: Even after watching the film, the intent behind its title and content remain a mystery.

JN: The title relates to an image of Africa we embraced before going into the field. I had the impression that Africa was a jungle, full of rich forests. But if there were forests where we filmed in Zambia, they were at best thickets. The Africa we had believed in until then was an image of Africa the mass media wanted to present, and it struck me just how passively we had drunk it in. There were no forests in Africa. The title of this film comes from this experience. It’s also a fact that I visited a country I had never seen before and was shaken out of our senses. Zambia has a lot of elements that can be made into art, and after returning home I made non-filmic works as well.

Q: The film has an interesting structure that mixes fiction and documentary.

JN: We had decided on a general structure that mixed documentary and fiction form from the planning stages. But I have never been good at planning film production. I see an image and intuitively respond to it, and then connect it to the next. I make films by repeating this process until I can express my feelings in each image. Here, had we not chosen Juan Watson Mutata to direct the fiction portion of this film (he also appears in the documentary), this would have been a completely different film.

(Compiled by Kobayashi Ririko)

Interviewers: Kobayashi Ririko, Nomura Yukihiro / Interpreter: Takasugi Miwa / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Oba Maho / Video: Umeki Soichi / 2011-10-10