An Interview with Hatakeyama Yohei (Director), Fujimoto Mitsuko (Producer), Hata Takeshi (Editor)
Challenging the Legendary TV Documentarist
Q: Apparently this film took ten years to complete. What happened during this time?
Fujimoto Mitsuko (FM): In 2000, filmmaker Sato Makoto organized an open-for-all seminar to study Ushiyama Junichi at the Film School of Tokyo documentary workshop. Five or six members were part of it, including Mr. Hatakeyama and myself. But Mr. Sato passed away and lots happened. After ten years, we decided we had to complete it somehow, so with Mr. Hatakeyama as director and with the participation of Mr. Hata, a professional editor, we pushed really hard for one year to make it ready for YIDFF 2011.
Hatakeyama Yohei (HY): Mr. Sato was apparently interested in Ushiyama as a pioneer filmmaker who continued to produce documentaries with strong authorship within the realm of public media and television. Mr. Sato was also interested in recording his own interests about media in the form of documentary, as you could see in his making-of film about the Directors Guild of Japan. As his desires were defeated by his death, and I was a part of both of his projects, I became incited to try to think about those issues through the making of this film.
Q: How did you decide to focus on “The Non-Fiction Hour” programs of the 1960s?
HY: Mr. Ushiyama’s character can look very different according to whoever is talking about him, even if they are talking about the same incident. The more we researched, the more input we got. But there is a lot of grey area we intentionally did not go into in the film. In considering the use of even an entertaining episode, we would go through discussion and trial and error to figure out how much we could be held responsible for, and where is the line for cinematic experimentation.
Hata Takeshi (HT): My work was sensing what Mr. Hatakeyama found so attractive about Mr. Ushiyama, that which had kept him going for ten years on personal funds, and to discover that contact point in the editing. As we went through the interview footage together, Mr. Hatakeyama told me he was envious of the TV styles of the 1960s. I guess it was an era when everyone was a dreamer and pushed forward forcefully. Personally it feels too excessive for me, and I’d prefer to keep more distance. But I felt that the atmosphere of those times and Mr. Ushiyama’s work locked together very well, so I set up this feeling of acceleration and its downfall, in particular of “The Non-Fiction Hour,” as a key factor in the film.
Q: Why did you place the debate about the future of television in the final scene?
HT: It was very hard to find a final landing point for this film. One idea was to show an episode from Mr. Ushiyama’s last days and then a shot of his grave. After discussion, we decided to take out the excessiveness and finally end with something of a different dimension from the rest of the film.
FM: The only thing we could place at the end was how we will carry on what Mr. Ushiyama strived for, as we see in the rest of the film. One idea was to show footage of the behind-the-scenes of this film, but I was adamantly against its buffoonery.
HY: Initially I thought that scene wasn’t necessary. But as we watched it over and over again, I realized we need to voice our own claims. Without voicing our claims and allowing the film to be connected to today, it won’t reach the audience. When I took out whatever assertions I was not totally sure of, and used only what I unwaveringly wanted to say, we ended up with the form we have now.
(Compiled by Sato Hiroaki)
Interviewers: Sato Hiroaki, Kawaguchi Hajime / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Kawaguchi Hajime / Video: Kawaguchi Hajime / 2011-09-30 in Tokyo