YIDFF 2009 Films about Yamagata
Shinjuku Legend—Nagisa Yoko Shinjuku Koma Gewa-gewa Recital
An Interview with Kawanaka Nobuhiro (Director)

Individual Memories Shared with Many Individuals

Q: At the same time this film is about Nagisa Yoko, it also feels like a documentary about you, the director. What were your thoughts in the making of this film?

KN: I heard that Nagisa was playing a recital at Koma Theater, so I decided to shoot it. I was already aware of the name Nagisa Yoko and had fond memories of Koma Theater. I generally dislike filming things I have no personal connection to. If I direct my camera at things that aren’t grounded in me, the film inevitably ends up emphasizing visual patterns and themes. For me, what’s important are the memories of a film’s creator. While those memories may be personal to the filmmaker, through them I believe I can approach and connect with the memories of the viewer. I made this film with that in mind, and so that’s why I appear onscreen. And as I shot the film I became increasingly taken with Nagisa, which I think is evident when you watch it. The passion she brings to the stage truly moved me.

Q: Why did you shoot the film without using a tripod?

KN: I didn’t want to stick to one style of shooting. At the outset of filming I did employ certain camera movements. However, I felt rather than some predetermined style it was more important to let the camera movements reflect my emotions. I wanted the images to capture the inner life of the subjects. That’s why I always use a single camera which I have total control over. Rather than using a video monitor to create a good composition, I look through the viewfinder and let circumstances and emotions dictate my focus. When I shoot interviews, I turn the video monitor toward the interviewee, allowing them to see how they’re being captured, letting the camera “speak” to its subject. This in turn reflects the nature of the film itself without following a set scenario. This led me to shooting things in a way that is related to me.

Q: Is the creative process essentially an isolated one?

KN: I believe people can share memories, regardless of race or generation. For example, any person can appreciate a beautiful sunset. Following that thinking, despite being extremely private memories there’s no reason not to share them. There is a school of documentary filmmaking that excludes what is “private” but I believe there’s no reason not to pass on individual experiences. Viewers’ sense may differ from generation to generation. However, through feeling something they can connect with their own memories, bringing together different generations. That is the type of documentary I would like to shoot. Through filming Nagisa Yoko I felt she had that same ability. Through her recital she created connections between the younger generation and the likes Wakamatsu Koji and Naito Chin, truly making it a legendary performance.

(Compiled by Takada Ayumi)

Interviewers: Takada Ayumi, Kato Takanobu / Translator: Jason Gray
Photography: Kato Takanobu / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2009-09-28 / in Tokyo