An Interview with Komori Haruka, Seo Natsumi (Directors)
The Possibilities of Storytelling
Q: In this film we see the cast during a two-week workshop in Rikuzentakata City in Iwate Prefecture. What was happening during their stay?
Komori Haruka (KH): The objective was to create a legendary place for passing something on. The idea was two-fold: One was a record of the stories told when four young people called “travelers” visited the place, and the second was their own act of speaking. For the first week we did an extraordinary amount of input. First as a group, and later individually, the members went to meet and hear from the people of Rikuzentakata and volunteer their time for them. Basically it was meeting and listening to stories during the day, and coming home at night to share the experience with the others. We also read Double Layered Town (the text by Seo Natsumi) aloud to each other and reflected on it.
Q: Before each reading, the participants start by saying “This is what this story is about.” Did the participants think up these lines by themselves?
Seo Natsumi (SN): Every day during the reading, I asked them to think how they’d interpret the chapter they are about to read and to voice their thoughts. In the beginning it was not easy. You can’t understand their response to the text without their speaking of their own personal backgrounds. So I started doing lots of one-on-one interviews to learn about their upbringing and hometowns. Gradually, they themselves began to integrate the text with their own person. The opening texts of each of the readings were edited compilations that were personalized for each speaker. Each one came out differently. This became the last outcome of the two weeks and I think they are very important.
Q: Your work often centers around interviews and storytelling. Why?
SN: A big factor is that these were the first things I encountered (in the area). I first went to the disaster zone as a relief volunteer, but I found I was useless in carrying debris and such. So I was hanging around doing nothing when an old woman in her home started to chat with me. Seeing the place of major destruction was at first shocking to us, but as I listened to the grandma talk about the buildings and landscapes she remembered and the memories and experiences of the disaster, I could feel a warmth and specificity of the place, another view through her physical being. Just seeing “a place that was swept away by a tsunami” is pretty tragic, but there was a glowing trace of life in the stories she and others shared. When we encountered such things through their storytelling, we ourselves felt relieved. I guessed maybe my (artistic) style is suited to asking people to speak about things that the camera cannot visually record, and that my responses can help people remember and add color to their memories through a back-and-forth.
KH: In my case, I feel it’s a pity to keep the experience of hearing their stories to ourselves. Not that we need to dispatch a so-called message to the world. Rather, we just want to share the consolation we ourselves got from each of their life stories, their words, their facial expressions, because maybe it will also give hope to whoever sees the film. That’s the intention that naturally developed into a wish to pass this on to others.
(Compiled by Miyamoto Airi)
Interviewers: Miyamoto Airi, Oshita Yumi / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Itagaki Tomohiro / Video: Itagaki Tomohiro / 2019-10-15