YIDFF 2011 New Docs Japan
Give Back Kama’s Rights! 2011
An Interview with Kim Imman (Director)

The Responsibility of Documentary Filmmaking Is to Make the Invisible Visible!

Q: News reports at the time covered the residency card invalidation issue together with other matters such as the presence of people who used Kamagasaki day laborers’ residency cards illegally. I didn’t know the situation in depth, so watching your film surprised me. What brought you to document this issue?

KI: I had been shooting video on my own for some time before that, and in late 2006 I got to know documentarist Nunokawa Tetsuro. Then in Kamagasaki over the New Year period, I was invited to shoot the “Winter Struggle” (Etto Toso) that supports day laborers through activities such as providing hot food. It was there that I met Sato Leo from the Nakazaki-cho Documentary Space, and he told me about the forced removal of homeless from Nagai Park, which he had shot (Nagai Park Elegy (“Nagai seishun yoi yume uta”), screened at YIDFF 2009). Then I learned that residency cards with addresses registered to Kaiho Kaikan hall were about to be invalidated, and felt that I had to make a record of it.

Q: Was there anything that you kept in mind while you were shooting?

KI: “Shooting objectively.” Even so, Kamagasaki is a place where many laborers gather, so I had all kinds of encounters, and we also became their supporters.

Q: I understand that this year, supporters brought people from Kamagasaki to vote in the election, and were arrested by police. Sato Leo was among them, and his home was searched on the grounds that he interfered with public officials in the line of duty. They even seized his tapes with the footage he had shot, which is conduct that threatens freedom of expression, but how did you feel about it?

KI: It was quite a shock. Nine people including myself were arrested, and four were prosecuted and detained for around 100 days. At first I intended to include our arrests in my film, but it was impossible because the criminal case is still ongoing. The city authorities apparently consider us to have interfered with the election. I feel as if this is a manifestation of the warped sense of crisis felt by the authorities following the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster. Before that, they allowed residency card addresses to be registered to the Kaiho Kaikan hall.

In this case, it seems that the mass media’s reporting incited this reaction, and they came to view allowing residency cards to be registered to Kaiho Kaikan as problematic in light of their policy of keeping track of the public through strict address registration. If they had come up with an address to transfer the residency card registrations to, or had explained what the alternative was, I believe that there wouldn’t have been such confusion.

Q: Did the laborers understand that they needed to exercise their right to vote in order to revalidate their residency cards?

KI: At first, they were unable to vote and they themselves also protested this. Their motivation waned to a degree as time went on, but they understood it in the sense that they were retaking their inherent right in a civic society. At that point, we introduced the issue of voting rights for resident foreigners, and progress became more difficult to grasp after that, but there are also many foreigners living in Kamagasaki, so we thought it was necessary.

Q: In the last scene, we see that the media reported heavily on nuclear plants using labor from Kamagasaki. I was shocked to learn that workers are being enticed by dishonest job descriptions, without explanations of safety issues, and for low pay.

KI: Despite the fact that electricity companies are paying daily wages of around 50,000 yen, several brokers have cut in and are exploiting the workers, who only receive around 13,000 yen. What’s more, the amount of radiation they are allowed to be exposed to is predetermined so the workers can be cut loose, which is an awful situation, isn’t it.

(Compiled by Kusunose Kaori)

Interviewer: Kusunose Kaori / Translator: Don Brown
Photography: Shibata Sei / Video: Shibata Sei / 2011-09-16 in Osaka