YIDFF 2017 International Competition
Sennan Asbestos Disaster
An Interview with Hara Kazuo (Director)

People of Japan! Be Angrier With the Authorities!

Q: I think the protagonists in this film are very different from those you have filmed thus far, but why did you decide to cover the group of asbestos plaintiffs this time?

HK: When I was in my twenties, whenever I filmed overzealous people (like Okuzaki Kenzo of The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On), I would make up my mind and produce the film. Conversely, when it came to everyday people, I would internally label them as “ordinary citizens,” but decide that I would not film those kinds of people.

Since, the Showa era ended, and the Heisei era began, I’ve been looking for overzealous people, but they are nowhere to be found. Even though I spent more than ten years looking, I wasn’t able to find any. So why aren’t there any? I’ve realized that it’s because it was the Showa era that there were overzealous people. Japan lost the war, democracy was brought into the country, and that meant there was a process for nurturing democracy. Because it was that kind of era, an overzealous way of living was possible. There was still space to allow for an overzealous way of living. However, once the Heisei era began, there was a trend where authorities gradually returned to past times of being at war, where the process of nurturing democracy went in reverse, and people became increasingly oppressed, with no flexibility. Once the Heisei era began, an overzealous way of living was no longer tolecated. I realized that this was why I did not find people who were living overzealous lives. At that time, someone told me, “Why don’t you make a film about asbestos?” and at first, I began filming with a casual attitude, thinking, “I guess I’ll try it.” However, once I began filming, I realized that when it came to the people dealing with asbestos, everyday people are ordinary citizens.

Q: You fully portray the trial and fights over asbestos, which took up to 8 years, in 3 hours and 35 minutes—did you think it was particularly important that people see this issue?

HK: At first, I had no intention of filming till the end. I was thinking of ending halfway through at a good point, and closing with, “Even so, the trial goes on.” However, I wasn’t able to end it. This is because when I was filming overzealous people, I was able to film explosive scenes, and would have a rough idea of how I could complete the work with these, but when I am filming everyday people, I could wait and wait for a climactic scene, but still be unable to film one. That is why I could not end it, and stuck with them till the very end.

Q: The anger of the asbestos plaintiffs, who have become victims of Japanese national policies, permeates the entire film. In this era, the Heisei era when overzealous people have disappeared, how should “ordinary citizens” express their anger toward the authorities?

HK: With this work, what I wanted to say most was, “People of Japan, faced with these authorities who do whatever they please, are you just going to accept it as is? The world will surely turn into something unnatural.”  Those of us who tolerate the authorities have a responsibility, and democracy means that if every one of us does not get stronger, we will be playing into the authorities’ very wishes. It is precisely because it is now the Heisei era and it is a dangerous era that I think this way. If this work is able to relay that message, I will truly feel that this work is indeed completed.

(Compiled by Okawa Akihiro)

Interviewers: Okawa Akihiro, Sakurai Hidenori / Translator: Joelle Tapas
Photography: Numazawa Zenichiro / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2017-09-23 in Tokyo