YIDFF 2011 New Docs Japan
Transgender Trouble
An Interview with Ebata Koki (Director)

To be Human is to be Different

Q: Did you know you wanted to make something about transgender people from the start?

EK: In the beginning I wanted to tell my own story. It’s easy to decide to turn a camera on yourself, though, and I found that direction to be very arbitrary. So I made another plan and began shooting. But you always end up shooting something different, so I ended up making the film by choosing the bits that fit my plan from my over 80 hours of tape. I think the resulting film explains my situation as well.

Q: I felt you were trying to show that LGBTQ people have no place to be.

EK: They don’t. When you’re in the middle of the switch from man to woman or woman to man, you are neither. In that period you are unstable, and you seek grounding. That could be psychological counseling, the Japan Association for Queer Studies or the Japan Society for Gender Identity Disorder, but you have to go to those kinds of places. Especially transgender people in their early twenties, who have to work in bars and clubs to save their medical fees, making the change little by little. That kind of work doesn’t grow into a career. It does nothing for your studies, and it obscures your future. I am very aware of this problem.

Q: What did you want to tell most with this film?

EK: The flamboyant characters and drag you see in the mass media are not examples of people showing their individuality. They nothing more than humorous spectacles, depicted this way for the sake of ratings. Even on NHK, queer people are depicted only as a medical issue. Looking at this as a transgender person, you find that all the representations are off. The biggest thing I want to get across in this film is that all people are different. There is difference even among “women,” and the thoughts of the so-called “transgender” people in this film also differ from person to person. These may only be small differences, but they are where individuality lies. I tried to show diversity with this film, and not to fall into the dualism of gender and sexuality. I would be happy if those who watch it see the individuality inside each of them as well.

Q: I feel it’s hard to be yourself and accept your individuality. How do you think transgender people, as well as people who aren’t transgender, can find it easier to live with themselves?

EK: That’s a hard question. When I screen my film many people ask questions. And the people who raise their hands often tell stories about themselves: I’m like this, or have had this kind of experience. I think that when you watch this film, you start to want to explain your own situation. Everyone has been telling their own story, so I think my film offers an opportunity to break through a wall. This makes me very happy. If you don’t open these kinds of spaces, you can never look into other people. You can’t understand them. So I think the answer might be to build more spaces like this.

Q: What issues will you deal with in your next film?

EK: I want to make a film on unjustified arrests. One of my relatives was arrested in an anti-nuclear demonstration, and the circumstances were very violent. I would like to eliminate this violence, using film to show what the mass media does not. It’s important to make the mass media work, and I believe films have the power to make change.

(Compiled by Kubota Chisaki)

Interviewers: Kubota Chisaki, Watanabe Miki / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Shiratsuki Kae / Video: Shiratsuki Kae / 2011-09-23 in Tokyo