An Interview with Fukuhara Yusuke (Director)
Simply Listening to Life Stories, Not Disaster-related
Q: It felt like the interviews were conducted in a very natural atmosphere. Tell us how you came to make the film, particularly with the interviewer Shimazu Nobuko.
FY: Ms Shimazu and I had been participating in the activities of the Miyagi Minwano Kai (Miyagi Folktales Group) which records and collects folk stories widely. Many residents of Iitate Village were relocated (after the disaster) to temporary housing facilities of Kunimicho, where Ms Shimazu came to be involved in relief work. As we got to know the Iitate villagers, we decided that we’d like to hear their stories and film them. In our folktales group, we call our interviews “visiting” and not “collecting” or “researching,” because we try to ask for not only the folktales, but also stories about the speaker’s upbringing and surroundings in order to learn about the life motivations from where the person came to tell fables. The objective is not just to collect the folktales, but also to “visit” the storyteller himself/herself. Similar to the interviews in this film, where we make sure that we are not just asking about the disaster, the importance lies in “listening to the person tell the story.” This film is an extension of our activities of recording stories of ordinary life.
Q: I could almost feel the air of the village that people breathed daily. Was there anything you were especially careful about in the filming work?
FY: I took care in keeping with and not disrupting the atmosphere of everyday tea-sipping chats. I minimized the equipment and the number of crew members to just me and Ms Shimazu. I wanted their daily life to come first, and for the camera just happening to be there at their side. At the same time, I know that when a camera enters a space, the mood becomes a bit formal and people find themselves able to say things they would not normally reveal in their everyday. So I guess the camera was used not just for the filming but to create a setting that encouraged storytelling.
Q: You set images of contaminated soil and beautiful natural landscapes side by side. The opinionated comment about the nuclear disaster was placed at the end. Can you talk about your editing decisions?
FY: In the filming, I reserved the natural feeling of the moment and avoided an approach that tried to explain something set in advance. But in the editing, there were some discoveries I was able to make. In the second interview, the lady speaks about how she liked looking at the mountains in front of her house, but in the image you can see the bags of contaminated soil at the bottom. There you could see the complex friction between the beauty that existed before the disaster and the current state of affairs. It’s a matter of fact that they had spent something like 80 years in Iitate. And only after that lengthy time did the earthquake happen. It’s just the way normal time flows, but it’s a perspective hard to grasp if we only look back from a post-disaster time frame. This was a major discovery for me. In editing the stories, I tried to put them in an order so that trivial and seemingly insignificant details come to the listener’s attention. In that logic, I put the very direct voice of anger about the nuclear disaster at the end. This was of course an important statement and in that sense deserved to be at the end, but my emphasis was to invite viewers to hear the rest of the stories without a tinted filter and to learn only later that the place where these people lived their lives happened to be Iitate. I wanted the film to allow people to directly imagine the time that had flowed there, and not just in relation to the disaster.
(Compiled by Morisaki Hana)
Interviewers: Morisaki Hana, Shibuya Ayaka / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Abe Shizuka / Video: Tadera Saeko / 2019-10-15