An Interview with Miyamori Yosuke (Director)
A Film Born of a Chance Encounter
Q: You are a director who has worked in many mediums, including film, photography, and theater. Did your encounter with the Kesennuma High School dance team spring from one of your professional projects?
MY: I was in Kesennuma city for work-related reasons, but meeting the dance team was entirely coincidental. I headed to the Kesennuma disaster area after an overseas television station asked me to act as a coordinator for them, and after spending the first night in one of the shelters, I was supposed to meet someone from the television station the next day. However, I was unable to get in touch with that person, and it would be another two weeks before we were finally able to meet. In the meantime, I found myself in the care of the people of Kesennuma, and this was when I happened to meet Miura Kaori, one of the dance team members. She invited me to watch one of the team’s dance performances, and I told her that since I worked in film, I could film the performance for them—and that’s where the idea for this documentary came from.
Q: I was impressed by the beauty of the Dance of Reincarnation that the girls performed. Could you tell us how you felt when you watched the girls dance?
MY: I was both amazed and moved by their dance performance. They were without a dance instructor and had trouble even finding a place to practice, and it was astonishing that they could create such a sophisticated dance under these circumstances. It wasn’t the kind of dance that high school students living a normal life would come up with, but rather one that was born of the experiences the girls underwent as a result of the disaster. Once I understood this, I couldn’t be content just to film their dancing, but realized that I wanted to document the entire process through which they brought the dance into being.
Q: In the film, the girls generally seemed upbeat and positive, and you seldom showed them in moments of emotional pain or sadness. Did you intentionally steer away from portraying negative themes?
MY: No, none of that was intentional. I just filmed the girls as they were, and that was their natural state. It wasn’t just those girls, but the disaster victims as a whole who were surprisingly able to avoid dwelling on the negative. Instead of cursing their bad luck, they were happy to have survived, and to still be alive. You may remember that the girls themselves say as much in the film. The disaster brought the girls in the dance team closer together, and changed the way they felt about their families. The earthquake and tsunami were a terrible misfortune, but they were able to find the good in this bad situation, and think positively. If I had filmed the girls when they were alone, I may have caught them in moments of pain or grief, but I never thought to go that far.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with this film?
MY: As I say in my message at the end of the film, the healing process for these girls has just begun. And as someone who experienced the wonder of their dance, and as the director of this film, I wouldn’t like their Dance of Reincarnation to become a forgotten part of the past. It is my personal hope that this movie will help create opportunities for these girls to perform this dance again. This dance embodies the horror of the disaster, the suffering of the victims, and the deep gratitude of the survivors towards those who came to their aid, and this is something that should be experienced directly, rather than through a film lens. If my film can help to keep this dance alive, I will be happy with what I have accomplished.
(Compiled by Nagata Kanako)
Interviewers: Nagata Kanako, Muroya Toyoko / Translator: Kato Lisa Somers
Photography: Omiya Yoshiyuki / Video: Omiya Yoshiyuki / 2013-09-28 in Tokyo