YIDFF 2013 Cinema with Us 2013
The Meaning of Life
An Interview with Shimamori Chikako (Director)

The Meaning of One Man’s Existence

Q: I felt that the portrayal of your father’s personality and his way of living was very important to you. Being his daughter, were you able to capture any unique shots of him?

SC: Since around the time I was in high school, my father had always told me to seek the meaning of my life. At first, I had no idea what he meant. But through the filming of this moive, one of the themes to this answer started to form within me. For my father, it was to pass down his company, protect his employees, and to take part in traditional Japanese music performances.

My teachers told me to “capture what is in front of me on camera,” so in the beginning, I continued to film what was going on in the disaster-stricken towns. But during that time, I started to feel that what I should be doing is filming my father. And from that point on, I continuously followed him around to do just that. I have a feeling that when I started, he didn’t enjoy being filmed around the clock. But whenever I told him I wanted to film, he always accepted without hesitation. I think that whatever he wanted to say on camera was really directed at me. He thought that it would get me to really think about how I wanted to live my life from then on. After I finished making the movie, my dad told me, “I was hoping this would give you the opportunity to think about the meaning of your life.”

It’s very likely that I got along well with the part-time workers because of my father. Although they weren’t too happy when I first started filming them, it was because my father had such a good relationship with them that they accepted me by saying, “You sure are Yasutomo’s [my father’s] daughter,” after they saw me make the effort to go over there so often. As I filmed the employees at my father’s company, I felt that they really enjoyed working there. I shot a lot of interviews, but the one I ultimately used was the clip of them saying, “That Yasutomo used to be so skinny, like a bean-sprout boy.”

Q: Were there any obstacles you encountered filming such a close subject like your family?

SC: If I said no, I would be lying. When my father experienced shock, I also experienced it. Although we’re close, I have to look at him objectively—even the things that will happen to him in the future, or the decisions he hands down. I continued filming him all the while trying not to let my emotions get in the way, as it seemed he was the only one subjected to such hardship.

Q: Being both the director and a person closely related to the subject, did you purposely choose not to appear or include your own feelings in the film?

SC: I frequently get told that I should have put myself in it. But if I had, it would have ended as a very sad movie. I feel like the fact that I wasn’t in it from the beginning might have been an unconscious decision. I was just telling the story of a man, who is also my father, whom I filmed. I felt that it wasn’t really necessary to put myself in that story. However, since it was his daughter holding the camera, our relationship was evident at times.

I didn’t film any solo interviews with any other family members. Since I decided to film him not as a manager or as my father, but just as some man, there was no reason for me to appear in the film. After witnessing another person’s struggles and determination, it makes me wonder what the meaning of one’s own life is. I want people to think what would happen if they lived their life pondering that question.

It’s true that the disaster made me want to film my father. Although I’m glad that this film was accepted to be screened as a disaster film, I regard it as more of a record of one man. Not now, but years from now, when people watch this movie, they’ll probably remember the disaster. But, I think it would be nice if they could also see this movie and know that there was this other way of living too.

(Compiled by Kotaki Yukie)

Interviewers: Kotaki Yukie, Sato Hiroaki / Translator: Hayashi Kanako Connie
Photography: Sato Hiroaki / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2013-10-03 in Tokyo