YIDFF 2013 Cinema with Us 2013
An Interview with Fujii Hikaru (Director)

The Intimacy Born in the Onlooker’s View

Q: When I saw your film, which was shot from a fixed camera position, I sensed a clear purpose in the way you maintained a certain distance from your subjects. Could you tell us what this purpose was?

FH: Just as there are reasons for using a moving camera, there are reasons for using a fixed camera. I can’t give a single, all-encompassing reason for why I do so, but of all the decisions that have to be made about camera position, distance, height, and so on in filming, I find distance to be the most important. I believe that fixing the distance between the camera and the subject being filmed creates a certain composition in the shot.

Q: You say that distance is important, and you speak of a “personal aesthetic” that prevents you from closing in on the subject being filmed. Does this mean that it is important to be neither too close nor too far?

FH: Since all human beings are interesting, in a way it’s easy to make a film that elicits viewer empathy through close-ups of its characters. However, I have a strict policy about closing in on subjects. Your question helped me to realize that by using a fixed camera, not only do I maintain a distance from my subjects, but I also manage to keep from moving further away from them. I believe that there is a certain “sense of distance” in my shots, but not the detached sort that you would get from looking down on things from a helicopter. My goal is to keep the viewer on the periphery of an individual’s personal space—in other words, I am always searching for the fine line where one person’s space ends and the onlooker’s space begins. I believe that distance breeds a sense of intimacy, and—though this may be a reflection of my own personal way of interacting with people—I find that if I get too close, that sense of intimacy disappears.

Q: How did you find the people you interviewed in the film?

FH: They were introduced to me by the Asahiza Appreciation Club. This also relates to the “distance” theme, but when I asked for people to interview, I said that since I’d be conducting the interviews in a predetermined setting, I didn’t have any particular demands regarding the interviewees. I said I’d welcome anyone, and anyone would be fine. The interviews always began with the question, “Do you know the Asahiza Theater?,” which was a question that my production staff came up with. My production staff was made up of people from the disaster areas, and I made this film while doing a workshop with them.

Since this film revolves around a movie theater, it was also an opportunity for us to question what the movie theater is all about. One of the things we discovered is that movie theaters are places where movies are “made.” After we watched a film, we’d whisper our impressions to each other, and filming Asahiza helped me to realize that films live and breathe through this process of being watched and whispered about, and that a film may be “born” right there in the movie theater with its audience.

Q: How did you ask Otomo Yoshihide to approach the music for this film?

FH: When I asked him to do the music for Project Fukushima!, my last documentary, I thought that with the outlook for the future so uncertain, I didn’t want music that too overtly connoted hope, but I didn’t want anything too openly despairing either, so I asked him for music in the stage “before it becomes a melody.” Things were slightly different this time, so for Asahiza, I asked him for “music that is trying to be music.”

“Trying to be music” is a manifestation of how I—and my approach to filmmaking—have changed in the past year. It’s about the “trying to be,” and not about the “music.” Just as I was unable to see what the future holds for Minamisoma in Fukushima, I am unsure of what the future holds for the Asahiza Theater. While I am confident that there will be a future for it, I was aware that I should not try to depict a future that has yet to be determined, and it was from this that my demanding and abstract request for “music that is trying to be music” was born.

(Compiled by Handa Masahito)

Interviewers: Handa Masahito, Kotaki Yukie / Translator: Kato Lisa Somers
Photography: Morikawa Miku / Video: Nomura Yukihiro / 2013-10-14