An Interview with Xing Fei (Director)
Filming Neutrally: As a Chronicler
Q: This film is about Lee Komaki, a Chinese national who obtains Japanese citizenship and runs for Japanese public office. Had you always been interested in politics?
XF: For me, this is not a film about politics but a humanist documentary. You see a lot of stories about politics because Mr. Lee is on an election campaign, but as filmmaker I wanted to depict him as a person. Around September 2014, a common friend told me that Mr. Lee was running for office, and I was intrigued. If he wins, it would be the first time for a Chinese-turned-Japanese citizen to do so. That’s history. Whatever the result, I thought it was worth recording his challenge.
Q: What was your stance in filming him?
XF: I aimed not to anticipate the outcome, and to film from a neutral and objective position. It was a bit tense for me when some people I tried to interview in the street yelled at me and cursed me. Maybe their deep-rooted emotions erupted, thanks to questions they normally never had a chance to address. I was making the film without preconceptions, so maybe they felt comfortable speaking their minds honestly. I used a small consumer video camera. You might think it looks like something Mr. Lee’s secretary shot for the daily record, or for practicing his Japanese language skills. I didn’t use this camcorder to catch intimate shots, but chose it simply because it was light weight and had good resolution.
Q: What did you want audiences to feel?
XF: There’s nothing I intended them to feel. This film is packed with topics—Japan-China relations, a naturalized Chinese running for Japanese office, the Japanese attitude towards foreigners . . . Audiences have different interests and so I’d be happy if each person experienced my film freely in whatever way they want. There’s nothing in the edit with the intention to prod the viewer to a particular emotion. I laid out the interesting events in chronological order. It’s a fast-paced film with lots of amusing stories.
Q: Is there anything you are particularly careful about in your filmmaking?
XF: I try not to make films with a predetermined conclusion in mind. For this film, I got bored after my first two weeks shooting Mr. Lee making speeches. There was no change or progress, and it was like playing a broken tape recorder. So I went to talk to people on the streets, and diligently recorded what I thought could be interesting. I am aware that in documentary, the filmmaker’s subjective viewpoint cannot be eliminated, but within that premise I tried hard to faithfully record like a chronicler. I am not a professional cameraperson, so I didn’t use any special skills for the filming either. I was satisfied with capturing what I wanted. I am just a chronicler, after all.
(Compiled by Yoshioka Yuki)
Interviewers: Yoshioka Yuki, Nomura Yukihiro / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Satsusa Takahiro / Video: Kusunose Kaori / 2017-10-09