An Interview with Maeda Tetsu (Instructor)
Coming in Touch with Normality Amidst the Abnormality of War
Q: By hearing people’s stories of “fun” and “joys” during wartime, I was able to imagine what the everyday was like for each person who lived through that era. The film showed us how their ordinary life was no different from today, and as a result the difficulties of living under war and the peculiarity of war itself rose up in relief. I understand that this film was made by 61 students who are currently enrolled in their second year in the Tohoku University of Art and Design film course. As freshmen, they took part in a class titled “The War Experience as Compiled by Students” starting October 2014. As the teacher, why did you choose this theme for the compulsory documentary filmmaking project for first year students?
MT: The interview is the fundamental form of facing someone. Through interviewing, you will learn the technical basics of filmmaking, proper social skills, and the most important elements of communication. Since all these things constitute the basis of filmmaking, including them in the curriculum was a must. Many young people know about war through movies or dramas or books, but knowing about this through the media and actually experiencing it is different. I wanted the students to hear real voices and come in touch with their own reactions and imagination. Knowledge through TV, movies, and books is important, but I wanted them to experience something more. That way, they would be inspired to think one foot deeper the next time they see the word “war” in the news and newspapers. Moreover, I believe the war experience is something that has to be carried on to the next generation. I wanted the students to physically embody the war experience of the elders by hearing and seeing them tell the stories live, by editing and compiling the stories themselves.
Q: Can you tell us how you chose the theme “Fun Memories and Joyous Occasions During the War”?
MT: The students, after discussion, decided on it by themselves. They were interested not in the suffering of the times, but the enjoyment relished in the midst of such difficulties. They wanted to hear the positive side, the reason hope prevailed in that desolate environment. Hearing stories of normality in the midst of the abnormality of wartime allows us to imagine how truly tragic and cruel war is.
Q: Tell us what the students felt through interviewing and filming the interviews. Is there anything that left an impression on you?
MT: One of the students wrote: “I learned through the interviews that there was laughter, tears, hunger and all those ordinary emotions and sensations, even under that extreme situation. This may sound absurdly normal, but I recognized that they were human, too, living their lives just like us.” The students imagined that it could have been them living that era. And you could take it even further, that somewhere in the world today there are people living under the shadow of war. The students usually find it difficult to relate to warfare and people experiencing war when they see it on the news or read it in the papers. Through this interview project, I was happy to see that their experience expanded their imagination to allow them into the shoes of someone undergoing war.
(Compiled by Takahashi Nina)
Interviewers: Takahashi Nina, Abe Aya / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Kanno Mako / Video: Shishido Kenta / 2015-10-06 in Yamagata