An Interview with Fujiwara Toshi (Director)
What You Include in a Film
Q: You looked social issues related to a US military base in this film. I was impressed with your conversations with many elderly residents. You incorporated a lot of the viewpoints of those local, ordinary people into the film. What was in your mind when you were interviewing people during the filming?
FT: Usually if you shoot a provocative political documentary, you look for someone who is vocal and critical. However, it is more important for us to consider who and what we Japanese really are with the history we know now, and record it. Documentary has been really personalized recently because of the widespread use of digital cameras and it leads people to only focus on those who are close to them. It actually narrows the perspective you apply in films. I tried not to fall into that trap.
Q: Why did you divide the film into two parts?
FT: The first part mainly focuses on the prewar period and the latter half on the postwar period, after the US military came to Japan. However, I didn’t quite mean to make a film about US Ikego Base in particular. If you make a film which recapitulates modern Japanese history, you just cannot help but examine one crucial date. That is of course August 15, 1945. However, people have hardly talked about this day. In a way, that day is like a black hole in modern Japanese history and I used it as a halfway mark in this film. That blank space, while not shown, functions in a way like the film’s core.
Q: While looking at the US military base, the theme of this film varies from the residence of elderly people to the environment. What message would you like the audience to take from this film?
FT: They can find the theme of the film on their own. As for me, it is all about “who we, Japanese are” During the war, we fought in the name of self-defense, but what we actually destroyed was something like our supreme, ideal home. Through the war, we lost all of that. There is no more pure Japanese-ness like we had before the war and there is nothing we can do about it. However, I believe that we need to be aware that we used to have something like that.
When you are involved in film making, whether in fiction or in documentary, you need to not only be concerned about the work you are making, but you must also take responsibility for the story or the people in the film. And at the same time, you should think about what kind of expression a “film” is. I think it’s fine for there to be a variety of ways to see and understand films, but the biggest responsibility for filmmakers is to create a film structure which allows people to approach it from that whole variety of angles.
(Compiled by Iida Yukako)
Interviewers: Iida Yukako, Suzuki Hiroki / Translator: Okazaki Ikuna
Photography: Kato Takanobu / Video: Kato Takanobu, Suzuki Hiroki / 2009-09-14 / in Tokyo