An Interview with Suzuo Keita (Director)
A Tale of Calamity, Told Without Words
Q: What directly motivated you to make this film, and why did you decide to travel to the disaster areas?
SK: There were many reasons, but the main one was that we were so inundated with information that it was hard to understand what was going on. I first went to the disaster areas as a volunteer, but after going a number of times, I began to feel that there was something missing from the news reports. For a long time, I myself wasn’t sure how the disaster had affected our lives, or how I should try to come to terms with it, and I knew that this was something I’d have to continue to think about. At the beginning of April, I went to Ishinomaki, Minamisoma, Rikuzentakata, and Kamaishi. I had my camera with me, but at first, I couldn’t film anything.
Q: When I saw this film, I noticed that you were less concerned about conveying what people had to say, and more interested in showing their bearing and demeanor, and the natural scenery around them. Was it difficult for you to decide whether to make this a film that showed what people affected by the disaster were thinking and feeling, or a film that focused on the natural environment that surrounded these people?
SK: It wasn’t that I debated whether to focus on what people were saying or the natural surroundings around them—I instead aimed for something in between, which was a portrait of natural scenes that contained people. I wasn’t rejecting the use of language, but there were times when I seemed to catch a glimpse of other unspoken stories. It was something in the aura of the people who spoke to me. There would be rare times when there was something in the expression of the person who was speaking—or something in that person’s eyes or bearing—that seemed to contain a fragment of another story that was there to be told. I decided to concentrate less on the actual stories that were told to me, and more on moments like these.
Also, when I worked as a volunteer, I often observed people in the disaster areas who were engaged in different tasks and efforts. I thought that the sight of these people who were trying to recover what had been lost or broken was more eloquent than any oral description of the disaster or a person’s experiences.
Q: Did you notice a change in yourself before and after the film?
SK: It’s not so much a question of “before” versus “after,” but I did feel myself change every time I went to do the filming. However, even though I’d feel something when I was filming, then I’d go back to Tokyo where life was very different, and since there was a gap between these two worlds, I’d feel confused. I’d go to the disaster areas to film for a period of ten days once every two months, and every time I left and came back, I always felt that same rift. It was the same when I edited the film, which I did over an 18-month period starting at the beginning of last year. Each time I edited the film, I seemed to end up with something different. But rather than allowing my film to become a clichéd message, I thought that it was better to accept the fact that there would always be this disconnection.
Q: Are you still filming, or have you stopped now that your film is completed?
SK: I plan to go and film again. However, whether I’ll add the footage to this film, or use it in a new film, or not make a film at all—these are the decisions I always find it difficult to make.
(Compiled by Kawamura Koji)
Interviewers: Kawamura Koji, Sato Hiroaki / Translator: Kato Lisa Somers
Photography: Sato Hiroaki / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2013-10-08 in Tokyo