An Interview with Tachikawa Kazuya (Director)
Not a Parent, but Indispensable Nonetheless
Q: Watching your film, I realized that having my parents raise me is not something I should have taken for granted. How long have you been covering children’s issues?
TK: While I was affiliated with Asia Press, I saw the destitute situations of children in the Philippines and Afghanistan. When I returned to Japan, there was much news of incidents involving children, and I felt a certain gloom and hopelessness in that society. So I decided to look into education. As I researched the topic, “family” would always appear as a keyword. Then I came across a book recording the 20 years of the Home of Children of Light, an orphanage where children live as family, and became interested.
While shooting I began to feel that “family” is not only a bond of blood, as it is often thought, but that which makes you feel someone’s existence as irreplaceable. No matter how strained a family relationship, you just can’t let it go.
Q: The Japanese title for this film translates literally to “Someone Closeby.” What does it mean?
TK: Those are the words of the director of the Home of Children of Light. When children come to the home, they face clashes and other problems. But despite all the distress, they stay without trying to escape. The title means wholly embracing someone nearby, not clinging or nestling close.
Q: What kind of place is the Home for Children of Light?
TK: There are 5 group homes there, and generally there is 1 staff member for 5 children. Most other homes will take tens of kids and have them live separated by gender, with rotating caregivers. I don’t think there’s another place like Home for Children of Light, where boys and girls aged 2 to 18 live together under one roof.
Q: The staff get very attached to those children, don’t they?
TK: Depending on their amount of time together and the state of the child, their relationship with the staff can differ. There was one staff member who covered the study abroad costs for a child he/she had watched since the child was two. Regardless of whether this sort of thing is right, that kind of action shows their relationship exceeded that of a caregiver and orphan. Someone nearby can grow into this kind of companion. That’s what I wanted to record. I imagine the staff members must have decided upon their own lives countless times.
Q: But there are times in which circumstances force caregivers to quit.
TK: That ends up being a very heart-wrenching goodbye. The children call them “Mama,” but they are not made to. Depending on the kid, some call the staff Mama and others call the staff by name. The children change their words as they undergo various internal struggles. Calling caregivers Mama is an approach that tells them not to leave, and maybe it has the appeal of presenting them as mothers. Perhaps it’s an expression of how close that relationship is.
Q: There are many children who hold close to their caregivers. Are they seeking motherhood?
TK: Paradoxically, it feels as if the kids would run up and beg anyone they meet for a hug. Children raised by parents will hide behind them when a stranger approaches. But the orphans have no parents, and I can only guess how much the love of an adult means to them. Holding one close is a simple act, but I think it’s a very important one, which is why I edited this way.
(Compiled by Kusunose Kaori)
Interviewer: Kusunose Kaori / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Shibata Sei / Video: Shibata Sei / 2011-09-22 in Osaka