YIDFF 2011Great East Japan Earthquake Recovery Support Screening Project “Cinema with Us”
Never Give Up Concert
An Interview with Oka Tatsuya (Director)

Covering what the Mass Media Doesn’t

Q: I first learned of this project from watching this film. How did you come about making it?

OT: Professor Kato Itaru of Tohoku University Art & Design introduced me. In the beginning the plan wasn’t to shoot a film, just a record of the recovery concert. After we finished shooting this festival invited us to try submitting it, so we went back and filmed people in evacuation shelters and those involved with the concert, and decided to show at this festival.

Q: Have your thoughts on the recovery effort changed at all?

OT: In the end they didn’t change one bit. I’m from Minami-Soma, Fukushima, and when I first started recording the concert, I had doubts about whether this performance or event or whatever was right or not. I wish I could have shown the true reality of the situation by using media other than television, and felt an internal contradiction as I made this film. My thoughts on the recovery effort are different from those of the Never Give Up Concert.

Q: What do you think about the guilt those in evacuation shelters feel?

OT: My family has also been evacuated, but as those around us are returning there is definitely some guilt over not going back ourselves. Some remaining inside the 20km zone are angry. “We’re living on a shoestring budget, but you in the shelters have food, clothing, shelter and emergency supplies. What luxury. And to top it all off, all the media covers are you, in the shelters,” they say. Here I wanted to shoot something not addressed by the media, and I’m glad I was able to record this situation.

Q: What kind of power do you think the act of singing together has?

OT: I’m fairly negative about that sort of thing, but as I was interviewing I felt there is power in song. The children wanted to sing no matter what, so I realized that’s what song’s power is. Just as Priest (Sanbe) Gido said, I would like it if the power of song and the power of the towels they’re distributing turn into something positive.

Q: You say you have doubts about this event. Are these about the performativity of it?

OT: Of course that’s part of it, but I have doubts about whether this ended up being about the victims or not. I think aiding someone is like nestling close to them. Aid givers have to be willing to face the problem in the long term, but I have doubts over whether they are prepared to do that.

Q: What do you think is the power of documentary?

OT: I also like narrative films that depict the minutia of everyday life, but fiction can’t beat documentary in terms of realism. I think the real charms of documentary come from the emotions and empty moments of normal life, but you can’t record those unless you really stick with them.

Q: Do you have plans to make other films related to the earthquake and tsunami?

OT: Fukushima is my home, so I’m thinking of making something about the nuclear plant. The mass media reports that TEPCO is evil, but on the ground few people actually feel anger toward the company. The closer you get to TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the more people there are who were able to live because of TEPCO. If I end up shooting this, I plan to record from three directions: TEPCO employees, those living inside the 20km zone and people working on the ground. I have no idea how to get in touch with people on the ground, though.

(Compiled by Okada Mana)

Interviewers: Okada Mana, Suto Hanae / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Tanaka Kayako / Video: Umeki Soichi / 2011-09-21 in Yamagata