An Interview with Takashi Toshiko (Director)
The Personal Decision
Q: Give us your impression of the lineup and your jury duty.
TT: I found that each film was strongly conveying their argument. But in many cases, perhaps because its agenda was so powerful, the film itself seemed unfinished. That’s my honest impression. Filmmakers can now shoot and edit alone. They can complete a film by themselves. Maybe there is a lack of an objective eye in the process. For the filmmaker, each shot is an important shot with emotional attachment, but whether each shot is required in the film is another issue. I found many films were unnecessarily long. New Asian Currents used to showcase lots of shorts and mid-length films, and that made the lineup varied and entertaining. In recent years, and not only at YIDFF, films tend to be lengthy and of a uniform style like hand-held camera. That’s my overview.
Q: What did you focus on in your jury duty?
TT: The name of an award might be the same but the jury’s decision is drawn out differently according to each year’s jurors. In that sense it is the taste of the particular juror, and that’s quite interesting. I wanted to award films not based on a perspective of equality or fairness of judgment, but as personal decisions. In that sense my co-juror Philip Cheah and I had much in common and we were able to conduct our deliberations smoothly. Another juror would have given another film the prize, and so all that is fate, I guess.
Both Philip and I focused on something like the filmmaker’s gaze. Philip was particular about carrying on Ogawa Shinsuke’s spirit and I agreed.
Q: Tell us about your experiences with YIDFF and your feelings for it.
TT: I’ve been attending as audience since maybe the second edition. I was involved in the Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and so I’d come to meet filmmakers in the Asian section. Before I started making my own films, I had worked as assistant director to former Ogawa Production member and filmmaker Fukuda Katsuhiko, someone I respect very much. He was New Asian Currents juror in 1997. The next year, just when I wanted to ask his advice on a film project I was preparing, he passed away suddenly. It made me think: I should do what I want, meet the people I want, make the film I want, while I’m alive. I had no intention of submitting them to film festivals or anything, but I made two films (Oishi Apartments, Nishi-Tengachaya and Ode I). They were made because I wanted to make them; I wanted only to show them in a small space to a limited audience. Mr. Fukuda’s wife Hatano Yukie told me, “They’re good. You should send it to Yamagata,” and though it was passed the admissions deadline I just sent them. Mr. Fukuda’s film Filmmaking and the Way to the Village was going to be shown at YIDFF that year, and I just wanted an excuse to go.
I was just hoping for one to be chosen, and didn’t imagine both would make it. I was very happy that both were shown. They are two very different films, but both were parts of me.
Two festivals ago, I participated as a member of the film projection team, as I’d heard they needed staff. I arrived in Yamagata one day early and stayed until the end. I realized how tough it was working the backstage. From early morning, sometimes too busy to eat properly. I joined because I wanted to see films, but in fact I couldn’t see films at all . . . .
Q: You’ve experienced the festival from many positions: audience, staff, filmmaker, and now juror.
TT: You’re right. Being on the jury was really strenuous, but everyone else—the staff, and in a sense the audience too—they’re all working hard. My friends were watching maybe even more films than me, and were complaining that it was so hard to choose which films to see, rushing about from here to there. It’s a strenuous festival for everyone. But it’s really a joy for the filmmakers to encounter the passion of this festival’s audience.
Q: There’s a special atmosphere that’s different from other film festivals. Really, like the audience and staff and filmmakers are all together.
TT: That’s exactly my point. The makers, viewers, and exhibitioners of the films are all equal here. In fact, viewing and showing films is the same as making films. So maybe I shouldn’t have complained that I couldn’t see films because I was projecting them. At Yamagata, there are no filmmakers who act like big shots, and the volunteers are doing really such a great job.
Q: Do you have any ideas for YIDFF’s improvement?
TT: I think it should continue as it is. To continue, that’s enough in itself. As long as this quality can be maintained. I find there are more and more young people attending, and the organization is improving, too. Just drop the excess work and allow the audience and staff to enjoy the festival without strain. So many people claim to have had a wonderful experience at YIDFF, word of mouth will carry itself far. I really think the festival is fine as it is.
(Compiled by Miyata Mariko)
Interviewer: Miyata Mariko / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Yamazaki Shiori / Video: Yamazaki Shiori / 2013-10-16