YIDFF 2007 International Competition
Mr. Pilipenko and His Submarine
An Interview with Jan Hinrik Drevs (Director)

Simply Being a Narrator Through My Films

Q: Despite the camera, Mr. Pilipenko was very natural in the film. How did you achieve this result?

JHD: I first talked with him without a camera. I spent time with him and his family, eating and drinking, even staying over at his house. As our personal relationship got deeper and he got used to me, I started bringing in a small camera to get him used to being filmed. When I brought in the big cameras for the actual filming, he was a bit skeptical at first. He did eventually get used to being followed by a camera as I filmed him day after day. He still did recognize that the camera was there. But because of it he saw that what he is doing bears significance. I don’t think he was putting up an act for the camera though. Documentary films are never 100% natural. The presence of the camera itself creates certain situations. But without utilizing those situations, you cannot make a good film.

Q: What was Mrs. Pilipenko’s reaction as you decided to film him, since she appeared unsupportive of his project?

JHD: Officially, She is not giving any support to him. This is because he is the head of the household, which means he is to provide for the family. He’s in the position to pay food and electricity bills but he is unwilling to do this. Instead, he spends money on his submarine. Looking at it from her perspective, making a submarine is so stupid and wasteful that she simply cannot support him. Unofficially, however, she is forced to endure and support him. The alternative to having a submarine-crazy husband, might very well be to have a drunk husband. You see, most of the residents of their village are big drinkers. Mr. Pilipenko is an exception to that because he has given up drinking altogether for the sake of his submarine. I think she had the feeling that if he ever gave up on his dream, he might quickly fall into a downward spiral. Of course for the film crew, Mrs. Pilipenko was a difficult character to relate to, but at the end we were able to understand each other better.

Q: What did you want to communicate through this film?

JHD: I don’t put any emphasis on the message. I’m uninterested in communicating a message through my films. I want to be a narrator that simply communicates a real story. I think that is the essence of my job. It is to communicate how a person lives, and to tell what that person finds interesting. That is as far as my interest extends. Maybe there is such a thing as a specific form of making documentaries, but I really don’t worry about conforming to them. Rather, I just want to communicate the content of a substantial story. I prefer to do stories which are full of dreams like this one and possibly stimulate the audience in some way. That’s the way I want my films to be.

(Compiled by Sanjo Yuri)

Interviewers: Sanjo Yuri, Kubota Keiko / Interpreter: Imai Isao / Translator: Paul Mikaelsen
Photography: Sasaki Yoko / Video: Sasaki Yoko / 2007-10-07