YIDFF 2017 Perspectives Japan
The Road Home
An Interview with Oura Miran (Director)

Hoping to Connect the Everyday Lives of Disaster Survivors and the Everyday Lives of Everyone by Portraying the Family as It Really Is

Q: At the beginning of the film, a fragment of an image and a sound like a heartbeat seem to create an experience of the state of mind when one heads home after a long absence. How did you go about creating this work, of which you’ve said, “I wanted to convey the inner minds of disaster survivors”? Were you consciously thinking about a connection with music from the very beginning?

OM: Ever since I came to Yamagata Rough Cut! 2015, I was thinking that I would make this into a film, but it felt like I was thinking of organization and direction while I was doing interviews. Rather than preparing a map, I didn’t know where I was going, but thought that I would, for the time being, drive and go forward. As for the request for music, I think it was around the spring of 2016. Together with Goudaguchi Kou, who was my senior in university, we composed it, talking all the while. The sound at the beginning of the film is also at the very beginning of the music. He said that he saw this as a sign that his song was starting. The music is a part of the film.

Q: What was it like to be a part of Yamagata Rough Cut! 2015?

OM: It was just at the time when filming had become difficult, but I was energized afterwards by seeing the reactions of different people for the first time. The year I participated, there was an experimental program where the viewers and the participating creators, who had slipped in among the viewers, would compare and debate double bill works, with rough fragments of unfinished works compiled into about fifteen minutes. I had a very strong impression of people from overseas telling me that, “As propaganda, it fails.” Perhaps, for these people, a film dealing with the earthquake was something that set up an oppositional stance against the power plants, or the facts of shocking opinions and suffering. They told me, “You’re showing this, but aren’t they just ordinary people?” or “They’re laughing, so they don’t look like they are suffering.” Additionally, in response to the images filmed from my point of view, like when my old residence is shown before my projected gaze, or when the camera is pointing downwards only as I pass through the gate, there was also the view that, “There is something heartbreaking about it. You rarely see the disaster survivors’ points of view in television documentaries.”

Everyone was trying to draw a line between those who were disaster survivors and those who were not. I think they were setting apart those of us shown in the film as disaster survivors. The film’s primary goal, its aim is “for viewers to make the stories of the people they are watching their own.” Even though there were parts that I hadn’t filmed, or parts where people are laughing loudly, I think if you are able to really see them as your own family, you’ll steadily be drawn in. After Yamagata Rough Cut! 2015, I ran a somewhat meandering path, but I felt that I was finally on track.

Q: What kinds of thoughts went into the title The Road Home?

OM: The title was decided around mid-way through production. There is the phrase “the road home” (with Chinese characters), but I included my wishes, and thought about it relatively as a set of coined words, so I put the title in hiragana (Japanese syllabic characters). One meaning is “the road home.” It is, as reflected in the words, the idea of returning home for a while, or coming home to your parents’ house. Another is the Chinese character for “to return,” the one you use when you write “return to the land.” I was thinking of how one cannot see what’s ahead, how people are heading towards death from the moment they are born, how films are also heading towards an end from the moment they begin. Additionally, all sorts of meanings, like “to look back” or “to look over one’s shoulder,” are included. If I had put “the road home” in Chinese characters, people would have concluded that, “It was just about coming home for a while.” I thought that by putting it in hiragana, there could be space for it to be connected to viewers’ daily lives.

(Compiled by Abe Shizuka)

Interviewers: Abe Shizuka, Haneda Airi / Translator: Joelle Tapas
Photography: Takahashi Asuka / Video: Takahashi Asuka / 2017-09-26 in Sendai