YIDFF 2013 Cinema with Us 2013
A Man Who Returned—The Distance to Happiness, from Tokyo to Fukushima
An Interview with Takeuchi Masatoshi (Director)

The Trials and Pleasures of Documenting the Many-Sided Human Being

Q: When Mr. Kanari came to Tokyo to live, he filled his son’s room with many things containing fond memories of the past that he had carefully brought with him. On the other hand, he seemed to part with his home in Iwaki city with barely a second thought. I was curious about this, and wondered if it might have been because he had made the decision to prioritize being with his family.

TM: It does appear that way in the film—but only Kanari-san knows the true reason. Humans are complex beings who have many sides. Even after following Kanari-san so closely, there were many things that I didn’t understand about him. When one many-sided person documents another many-sided person, and an audience of many-sided people watches the film that results, the impression that an individual is left with will ultimately depend on that person.

Q: How did you meet Mr. Kanari?

TM: He was an older student at my university. We first met at a farewell party for a teacher we both studied under, and we got to be friends. It was four or five years later that the Great East Japan Earthquake struck eastern Japan. I was worried about Kanari-san because he lived in Fukushima, but he evacuated to Tokyo and gave me a call around the end of March. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, but we met and went out for drinks together—and it was then that he asked me to write his story for him. Since I was a filmmaker, I suggested that we make a documentary instead, and though he hesitated at first, he came around in the end. That was where this film got its start.

Q: What made you want to document Mr. Kanari’s story?

TM: The main reason was that he ran a tutoring school, and he worked with a lot of children. I myself have a background in educational film, and children tend to form the backbone of my films. After the 3.11 disaster, it was the children that I was most concerned about. I’d be particularly disturbed when I saw scenes of children playing happily outside, and imagined them surrounded by radioactive particles. When I met Kanari-san right after the earthquake, he spoke passionately, telling me things about the nuclear reactors that you didn’t hear in the news and talking about the children, and I really empathized with him. That was when I decided I wanted to make a documentary about him. However, whenever I turned the camera on, he would completely refuse to talk about these things, and though he had originally agreed to the filming of his family, he later decided he wouldn’t allow it. So there were some unexpected twists and turns . . . but sometimes, there are things that actually become clearer when they remain unseen and unsaid.

Q: If you were to sum up this film in a word, how would you describe it?

TM: I might use the words of one of my viewers, who described it to me as a “film that reveals a lot about humans.” Although the film basically just follows a man who travels between Tokyo and Fukushima, it manages to capture the thoughts and feelings of many people along the way. The completed film was quite different from what I’d originally envisioned, but when I heard what my viewer had to say, I realized that I’d wanted to make a film about what it means to be human. In the end, I think that’s the kind of film it ended up being.

Q: Your use of “telop” (superimposed text) was quite interesting.

TM: Earlier in the interview, I said that people are “many-sided,” but I also think that humans are creatures who have a tendency not to tell the whole truth. One of the themes of this film is “untruths.” Mr. Kanari’s words don’t tell the whole story, and, to allow viewers to draw their own conclusions, some of the superimposed text is deliberately couched in ambiguous language. Sometimes the images and text even seem to conflict with each other. Depending on whether you watch the film while concentrating on the images, or watch the film while reading the text, I think you may end up with a different impression.

(Compiled by Sanpei Yoko)

Interviewers: Sanpei Yoko, Kawamura Koji / Translator: Kato Lisa Somers
Photography: Sato Hiroaki / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2013-10-06 in Tokyo