YIDFF 2011 New Docs Japan
Yes, I Am Here
An Interview with Shimonobo Shuko (Director)

If You Don’t Act, the City will Never Change

Q: Sasaki Chizuko is powerful, energetic and very cool, but can I ask you first about your screening project “Alternative Media: Terere?”

SS: When I was over 40 and finished raising my children, I began studying filmmaking at the Women’s School. I realized there were some things only women could record, so I began making films. To transmit the films you make you have to make a place for them, so I have been screening in cafes since 2003.

Q: Ms. Sasaki also appeared in your previous work, I Don’t Want You to Forget Me, didn’t she?

SS: When I began making films I received a request from a woman’s group called “Network for Questioning the Concept of Eugenics.” They wanted to call out to the world about victims of forced sterilization operations, and they wanted to focus on Sasaki. The goal of that film was to build awareness. But as I recorded Sasaki’s everyday life, I began to want to make a film about her as well.

Q: Ms. Sasaki actively goes out so she can “really feel alive,” but is Hiroshima an easy environment for people with disabilities to live?

SS: Sasaki has long been active in “Aoi Shiba” (Green Grasses), the national association for people with cerebral palsy, which is why she is what she is today. She would go to the Hiroshima Municipal Stadium and say, “Whatever, I’m going!” when we asked if it was wheelchair-accessible. She moves around as she wants to. We worried about the step in her apartment and the inconvenience it would cause, but Sasaki’s the type of person who lives where she wants. However, she is often turned down when looking for homes. People are put off by the idea of her entering rooms in a wheelchair.

Many people in stores and on the street tend to talk to Sasaki’s caregiver, like the employee in the electronics store in this film. People wouldn’t listen to Sasaki’s words, which angered her. Her caregiver understood her feelings and remained silent. Recently, when she goes into town or gets in a city train, people speak to Sasaki directly. However, it’s not as if it’s easier for her to get around. She’s not allowed on crowded trains.

Q: How did you feel covering the forced sterilization of the disabled?

SS: Sasaki was the only one to show her face and name in my previous film, and I felt a situation in which people like her can’t speak. I hear there’s a film in Canada that addresses a similar subject, but this topic is not really taken up globally. When I screened my last film many people told me they knew similar stories, and I learned that these sterilizations were actually widely practiced, in most cases with almost no explanation of the risks. I heard patients were told their periods would be bothersome to their caregivers and accepted surgery feeling as if they had been cornered. Sterilization operations don’t only stop child birth, they damage hormone balance. After undergoing surgery patients would suffer menopausal disorders. Their bodies would stop being able to move and they would spend many days in bad condition. I don’t understand the causal relationships behind all this, but when you don’t support Sasaki’s neck it becomes unstable. I feel her condition has gotten worse since I first met her.

Q: Sasaki has a very good relationship with her caregivers, doesn’t she?

SS: Sasaki is the type of person to look you straight in the eye, and I think that’s why she builds good relationships. We with healthy bodies think of efficiency, but she looks at things with care and value. That kind of personality attracts people. Sasaki’s depths are deep. She’s like a dry squid; the more you chew, the more you taste.

(Compiled by Kusunose Kaori)

Interviewer: Kusunose Kaori / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Shibata Sei / Video: Shibata Sei / 2011-09-10 in Osaka