YIDFF 2011 New Docs Japan
An Interview with Akazaki Masakazu (Director)

I Want to Change Myself, to be Able to Talk about My Sister

Q: Why did you think of pointing your camera at your sister, Chizuru?

AM: I had to make my graduation film, and I vaguely wanted to shoot something about disabilities. Of course, because my younger sister has a cognitive disability, my professor (Ikeya Kaoru) asked, “Why don’t you shoot her?” I hated the idea. Ever since I was little, words that discriminate against disabled people have been everywhere. So I never wanted to tell others about my sister. But, to be honest, there were so many interesting episodes about her that I’d always wanted to tell. Starting with the words “My little sister is disabled . . .” always seemed a bit too heavy, though. But if I used images, I thought I might be able to change myself, to get over not being able to talk about my sister. I wanted to change myself, so I made this film.

Q: You and your mother both appear in this film, don’t you?

AM: At first I thought I’d just connect images of the particularly representative parts of my sister’s disability. But from the start my professor said, “This is a family story. You and your mother have to be in it.” We didn’t agree, and for a time we didn’t talk because of this argument. Just when I thought I might never finish my graduation film, he came and asked, “Why are you so into disabilities? Aren’t you the one who’s discriminating?” Those words snapped me out it. I realized that I had always pegged my sister as disabled. I had never looked at her as a real person. After that I made a conscious effort to put myself and my mother in the film. I changed my plan from shooting my sister as a disabled person to shooting her as a family member. That began to feel more natural.

Q: Chizuru first showed at your university, and later moved on to film festivals and theatrical release. What do you think about how large its scale has become?

AM: At first it was only a graduation film. I had only planned to show it to my teacher and some of my friends. But I’m very thankful to have been given so many opportunities to show it to so many people. When I was making the film, I wanted to make it something everyone could enjoy. So I personally would like as many people to see it as possible. I felt a bit uneasy about exposing the private lives of my mother and sister, but I want to spread awareness about disabilities. I want to tell people and have them accept that when you look at the issue from the perspective of a family member, it’s all surprisingly normal. So in the end, the three of us decided we wanted it to be seen by as many people as possible.

Q: Do you have any plans for your next film?

AM: I poured my whole being into making Chizuru because I wanted to give up my dream of finding work in film production. Now I work in social welfare. The other day I watched the film for the first time in a long time, and I realized that my way of looking at things had changed. I think about my sister’s feelings more now, and I think I would shoot her differently if I made the film today. Now I’m busy at work (first year at the company) and have no concrete plans for my next film. I thought I had given up on filmmaking, but I’m feeling that that’s starting to change. I think I’d like to make a film again someday.

(Compiled by Hanawa Shun)

Interviewer: Hanawa Shun / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Chiba Minami, Hirose Shiori, Mabuchi Ai / Video: Chiba Minami / 2011-09-17 in Tokyo