YIDFF 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake Recovery Support Screening Project “Cinema with Us”
What We Achieved and What We Didn’t
An Interview with Okazaki Takashi (Director)

After Shooting Everything but People, What I Saw was People Facing the Disasters

Q: As the telop in the opening sequence “This film does not include any graphic shots of the devastation or the human drama of victims and/or the volunteers” stated, this film did not include any people, but what was your intent behind doing this?

OT: I believe that in general the main character of a documentary film should be people. However, in this case, because the devastation of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami was so immense, I did not believe that I could capture the disaster victims from an equal footing with the limited time that I had. I did not want to shoot a documentary film of that nature without first being able to construct a mutual relationship with the film’s subjects.

Q: Why did you try to unfold the events after the disaster using the visuals of notice boards and posters, or with the explanation in the telop?

OT: I have been involved with YIDFF since its first year, and I still have not come to a conclusion about the question that I have been addressing all throughout this time: “what is a documentary film?” If you were to compare it with food, TV documentaries are foods that are very easy to eat. There is a standard pattern to the way you are supposed to eat, and a conclusion is even waiting for you at the end. On the contrary, documentary films are like foods that are just precooked and can be eaten in an infinite number of ways. Therefore, what each viewer will feel as they watch this film will always different. I leave it to the viewers to take whatever they would like the real images of the notice boards and posters. To come up with one’s own conclusion, I think that is the real thrill about this film.

Q: Being your first film, was there something that you felt particularly strong about?

OT: Back in 1989, the first year of this film festival, was a time when 35mm and 16mm films were still dominant. Then videos started to popularize and everybody gained the ability to make their own films much more easily. I was that way as well. For this film, I used a household video camera. But in contrast with its convenience, I feel there are things that are very frightening about this. This is because I hadn’t even considered that the shots I took so carelessly could become a film. Ever since everyone is able to make their own films, there is this sort of discomfort for me.

Q: In this film, I feel that there were shots that could only be seen in Yamagata because Yamagata wasn’t one of the three most affected prefectures in eastern Japan. What would you say are these scenes?

OT: The people of Yamagata who stock up on supplies or line up in front of gasoline stands may look to be bad people for some, but Yamagata is actually one of the afflicted areas as well. Yamagata is in a sensitive situation where there are two sides; the side that stocks up on supplies and another side that tries to give support. People have a variety of personalities and sides. One person can be good, bad and uninterested all at once. As you could see from the posters at the evacuation centers, each location had its own community and had people whom one may consider as bad people. I was able to see the sort of microcosm of human society there.

Q: In the film things that “we were unable to do” seemed to stand out more, but as the director what was something that “we were able to do?”

OT: I hope that this will be able to motive the viewers like myself who went out and stocked up on supplies, or someone who may have little interest in what is going on, or someone who is only a little bit good to go out and do something to help, even if it may be something trivial. What I was able to do was make a film that has the potential to do such a thing.

(Compiled by Oka Tatsuya)

Interviewers: Oka Tatsuya, Oishi Mone / Translator: Kenji Green
Photography: Oishi Mone / Video: Takahashi Yuri / 2011-09-26 in Yamagata