An Interview with Kobayashi Shigeru (Director)
Living Can Be So Much Fun!
Q: The children are so expressive, and I was able to experience all possible emotions through the film. How did you come to focus on Kenyan children?
KS: It’s a long story, but it started when an NGO in Fukushima asked me to take photographs of children in Uganda. The person in charge told me, “Photography (unlike cinema) is a solitary act of facing reality. Why not try confronting yourself alone for a change?” Once the project took me to Africa, I met Matsushita Terumi (Teru-san) for the first time. She had first worked as a local care volunteer, and then established the NGO Moyo Children Center after obtaining Kenyan citizenship in 1996. When I met her ten years later in 2005, she told me, “Koba-san, I want you to record the children now.” I replied, “Teru-san, let’s do it soon!” At the time I already knew I was suffering from kidney failure, and needed to start dialysis soon. I knew there was not much time before I’d start dialysis, and I had to get to Kenya before that. So, there was no time to ponder. I asked Yoshida Taizo (Zo-san) to be my cameraman and we flew to Kenya. You know, I really like the scene where the children pray at the dinner table. It was only a year later when I saw the scene with Japanese subtitles that I learned that they were praying for my disease to get better. That moment, I became convinced that I should focus on capturing the children in their world and drop all commentary on social structure.
Q: Can you share some interesting episodes from your shooting?
KS: It’s not easy for Japanese people to film street kids in a Kenyan town. So I started out by allowing everyone to get to know me before running the camera and discovering for myself what kind of town it is. Two months later, when we were ready to shoot, I gathered the children and Teru-san and explained what this film meant and asked them to open themselves up in front of our lenses. But once we began, the children realized that the camera could record behavior that they’d prefer not to be shown. They asked me to stop filming. This made me think. The filming was not going too well anyway, and I personally felt the need to take a fresh breather. So I announced to them that I would take a pause, and meanwhile decided to gain official shooting permission from the Kenyan government. During the ten days before the papers came through, all parties went their ways. Zo-san was able to recapture his own cinematography and the children came to terms with the filming because of the authorization. So I would say that the gradual process of assimilation in order to film from the insider perspective was a positive one.
Q: Did you show the film to the children?
KS: After my return to Japan, I had to start dialysis right away and was unable to travel. It was the autumn of 2010 that I was finally able to show the film to the children in Kenya. They were not kids anymore, but they laughed hard as they watched it. Afterwards, one of them told me, “It was not easy to watch. I didn’t know how I was supposed to live my life at the time. Now I (am married and) have my own family, and am content. But I see that I should not forget how I felt back then.” With that, I couldn’t stop myself from crying.
(Compiled by Nomura Yukihiro)
Interviewers: Nomura Yukihiro, Sato Hiroaki / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Kusunose Kaori / Video: Kobayashi Ririko / 2011-10-12