YIDFF 2009 International Competition
Staub (Dust)
An Interview with Hartmut Bitomsky (Director)

Looking at Dust Through a Kaleidoscope

Q: I feel that this film isn’t just about examining dust, but is a work that depicts human beings, society, the future of humankind and the like, viewed from the world of dust. What is it that interests you about this subject, dust?

HB: When I was in America, I saw the way dust swirls in the air, and I thought I’d capture it on a digital video camera. But dust moves so quickly that the question of how to photograph it perfectly, that in itself was a big challenge. And from that, I decided to make a film with dust as its theme. When I make a film, I don’t necessarily have all the ideas in place from the outset. If it takes me 3 or 4 years to make a film, then whilst I’m searching for the theme I’m constantly looking around me, and steadily discovering new things, interesting things that strike a cord in me. When that curiosity to know more about the subject wells up, that’s when I know that once again I have the motive force to make a film.

And, like you were saying, this is a film that considers its subject from several points of view. It’s a theme which, just like a kaleidoscope, has all kinds of aspects. It’s also a theme which, as a filmmaker, I can deal with very freely. With other, normal themes, the artist is tied to the structure of the subject. How do I best handle this theme of dust, having dust as the only angle, and keep the audience fascinated for a long period? I thought about this as I made the film.

With the motif of dust as its basis, this film surrounds this subject with various sub-themes. If viewers could find the ideas that I discovered during the production process and placed in the film, that would be a real delight.

Q: Why did you make this documentary in the style of a fiction film?

HB: That’s my style of making films. I concentrate on making artistic films. With documentaries, I think there’s this way of making films where first of all you simply shoot all kinds of things, collecting the facts, and then you review what you’ve shot, thinking about which shots are good, and starting to put things in order. But humans have a more profound knowledge, and have experienced all kinds of joys and sorrows. And these experiences form one mass I think. And in this regard my style of incorporating fiction allows you to represent things more deeply. That’s what I think.

And say if it’s a 90 minute work, the amount of footage you shoot is going to be around 12 hours. That means that with limited footage, you photograph detailed information. In documentaries, it’s very rare to use 35mm film, but by using 35mm, the subject’s character, face, the changes in their facial expression, the changes in the surrounding environment, changes in temperature and so on can be captured extremely well. So for a much higher price you can capture a higher level of detail, and that’s why I used 35mm.

As an artist making documentary films, I want to depict my subject and theme in a much deeper, more detailed way. For that purpose I think it’s necessary to pour the same effort into the film as the director of a fiction film would.

(Compiled by Ishikawa Munetaka)

Interviewers: Ishikawa Munetaka, Hiroya Motoko / Interpreter: Hirano Kanae / Translator: Oliver Dew
Photography: Hayashi Shoko / Video: Kudo Rumiko / 2009-10-12