An Interview with Yamashiro Chikako (Director)
Searching for a Way to Survive
Q: A Woman of the Butcher Shop mixes real life shots with elements of fiction. Why did you choose this method?
YT: I shot imagined scenery based on my personal experience. I was born in Okinawa, and it was in my adolescence when people around me told me about Okinawa’s history and I finally realized the circumstances I had been born into. At that time, Okinawa’s land had already been taken, and the people’s sorrow and anger had no place to go and was just drifting. This of course appears in the film. I created this film because I wanted to try to understand how this situation came about. I wanted to explore if it is possible to break out of the present condition Okinawa is in and also how true happiness is obtained.
Okinawa is a unique group of islands, which feels so blocked off. In creating this film, I thought of how our ancestors survived in this atmosphere while they seemed to be on the verge of being crushed. At first glance, the film may look like it is about the relationship between men and women, but this is not the case. The confused state of the relationship among Okinawa, the Japanese government and the United States is expressed through the butcher shop. In the first scene, you see meat rising to the surface of the ocean, and in the last scene the women return to the sea, clinging to each other forming a ball and floating to the surface, just like the meat. This may seem like a device to return to the beginning of the film, but in actuality, I believe this scene depicts the women uncovering a way to escape, transforming their bodies into new ones, and continuing to survive.
Q: There are scenes of stalactite caves in both A Woman of the Butcher Shop and The Beginning of Creation: Abduction / A Child. What was your intention in employing this?
YT: When you look at the earth as a living entity and its resemblance to organisms, stalactite caves can be perceived to be like the inside of the body of the earth. People generally think of stalactite caves as mysterious, but caves simply just exist. Caves themselves become deeper with time, and I feel like this process is similar to the silent, unseen movement of internal organs within the human body. For this reason, I used stalagtite caves as a metaphor. There is a stalactite cave within the butcher shop, and I filmed imagining the interior of the shop being like the inside of the human body.
Q: Both films deal with the theme of whether or not is it possible to inherit another person’s experiences. What kind of moments do you think can be inherited?
YT: In The Beginning of Creation: Abduction / A Child, Kawaguchi Takao tries to reenact Ohno Kazuo’s butoh dance. He calls on the late Ohno and tries to get close to him by imitating Ohno’s body movements and poses. Soon, Kawaguchi’s body gets accustomed to the movements, and he becomes less conscious of the poses. He goes through a change internally, and his emotions sync with those of Ohno’s. Watching this, I had my doubts about whether a person’s self could be copied. Kawaguchi goes so far as to try to copy Ohno’s emotions. But this is an extremely dangerous act that can result in losing one’s self. To avoid this, one needs to be objective with what they feel they’ve inherited, and not end up getting wrapped up in the copy. A copy can only be formed with this objectivism. However, this act is not visible from the outside. In this film, Kawaguchi’s body is transformed, and he ultimately creates his own dance. I tried to capture this moment.
The moment people think they have inherited something and are satisfied, they forget what they think they have inherited. Inheritance may be impossible, but if this is true, I want to know. I want to continue to pass this down to other generations. For myself, I choose filmmaking as one method of continuing succession.
(Compiled by Nahata Fu)
Interviewers: Nahata Fu, Abenoki Tatsuya / Translator: Kat Simpson
Photography: Kano Haruna / Video: Tadera Saeko / 2017-10-07