An Interview with Park Soo-nam (Director)
The Journey to Take Back Stolen Identities
Q: In your previous film, Song of Arirang: Voices from Okinawa, you went to Korea for production in order to explore your own past. Why did you produce a film with a setting in Okinawa this time? Also, you previously used books and writing for documentation. Why did you choose film as a means for that this time?
PS: Originally, I wasn’t going to expose the true facts about the Battle of Okinawa. I made my previous film, because I wanted to know more about my father. As I collected more data, I found out the truth of what happened during this battle, so that’s how I decided to make this film. In other words, this journey served to find out exactly what the Battle of Okinawa was, who exactly I was, and to regain my identity that was taken from me. As I explored these topics, I noticed that not everything that was written was the truth. I thought that keeping a record on film had the power of persuasion.
Q: I’m sure there were many people who didn’t want to speak of the past that was depicted in this work. How were you able to get their statements?
PS: It would be impossible to suddenly show up at their door and tell them, “I want to hear your story.” Therefore, I first told the people on the island about my older siblings to show that we shared history. There is a phrase in the Okinawan language, “Icharibachodei,” which has been passed down on the island since the olden days. It means, “Once you meet someone, they become your family.” Whenever I spoke about my father or siblings, my film subjects would say, “This is the first time we’ve been approached like this.” In that way, I was well received by them. As a fellow human being that could share their pain, I was able to arrive at the truth that had never been told until now. Furthermore, this work did not really portray the reality of the wartime “comfort women” who appear last. The sequel, currently in production, will include new testimonies from them. I plan for this work to get to the core of their story.
Q: Was there anything especially difficult upon filming?
PS: To collect data, I attempted to do some prior investigation, but there were barely any materials that had the true facts about the Battle of Okinawa. In order to know the facts, the only way was to talk to the people directly. For example, there is absolutely nothing on record about the strategies utilized by the tank corps or the vast number of Koreans who were used to boost their fighting power. So it was difficult for me to hunt down the truth, for which there is no record of.
Q: Presently in Japan, I think there are many young people who don’t know the facts that were depicted in this work. What do you think about this reality?
PS: I learned from the news that parts of Japanese history are covered up, and that textbooks are inspected. So I knew that the young people today wouldn’t know about these things. I believe that not knowing what happened in your own country is the same as what the Koreans felt when they were taken to Okinawa, having their history and culture stolen from them. For the Japanese, to know what really happened here is to establish their identity. After all, when I think about the future of Japan and Korea, I believe that it is invaluable to know about the past.
(Compiled by Yamazaki Shiori)
Interviewers: Yamazaki Shiori, Kato Noriko / Translator: Hayashi Kanako Connie
Photography: Kato Takanobu, Kato Noriko / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2013-09-28 in Kanagawa