YIDFF 2007 New Docs Japan
An Interview with Soda Kazuhiro (Director), Yamauchi Kazuhiko

Films Don’t Need Messages, I Just Want to Depict the Scenes

Q: Did Mr. Yamauchi perform for the sake of the camera?

Yamauchi Kazuhiko (YK): Honestly, yes. A good example of that would be when I shook hands with Colonel Sanders (at KFC).

Soda Kazuhiro (SK): I didn’t ask him to perform at all. I tried to keep myself from giving any advice or questions to him. I was tempted so many times to ask him, “Why in the world did you run as a Jiminto (Liberal Democratic Party) candidate?” but I figured that if I ask him that question, the distance I wanted to keep from him will be destroyed. So in a sense, I, as the director, was performing for the sake of the camera too.

Q: There was that scene where Mr. Yamauchi and his party lined up in front of the station greeting people going to work saying, “I am Yamauchi Kazuhiko. Have a nice day.”

YK: Yeah. I think about it now, and have no idea what it was about.

SK: I was laughing inside, of course. But what is really interesting about that scene is that nobody who walked by at the station laughed at them. Everybody seems to expect something like that as a part of their everyday life. For the average person, it is strange to see a camera filming Yamauchi’s party, since cameras normally appear where there is something unusual and interesting. My reverse thought process was that by filming the most usual thing, that thing will become special and interesting. I think the reason that the election process was never really filmed in depth before is because it is such a normal part of everyday life. Nobody thinks about filming it.

Q: What is the common reaction from the viewers of Campaign?

YK: People who have been involved in the campaigning process do not get surprised much. Instead, they would say, “We do the same kind of things. I would like for people to know how much effort we put into it.” People who are further away from that position laugh more at the film and think that the images are very strange. Those farthest away are those in the foreign audience who do not know the Japanese culture.

SK: For instance, foreigners always laugh at the scene in the packed train. Personally, I have been living in New York for 14 years so my viewpoint of Japan is a little removed. Every time I come back to Japan, I get a fresh look at these things. I think a packed train represents so much of the Japanese psychological makeup. I feel that the Japanese campaigning process and packed trains are related in showing the essence of Japanese mentality. When I was editing this film, I started to think about how I could structure it in order to squeeze out that essence. I wasn’t thinking about any of this when I was filming because I was completely absorbed in it.

Q: I heard it took you 10 months to edit the 60 hours of footage to 2 hours.

SK: I start my editing process with all the scenes that I find interesting. Then I put them together in a roughly chronological order. When I start to see the structure of the film, key words start to appear in my head like “40 year old Yama-san’s challenge,” “campaigning,” and “Japanese culture.” Then I did the rest of the editing by keeping in mind the key words I came up with.

Actually, I had a finished film within two months, but I really didn’t like it. I used a lot of short clips with lots of catchy editing. It was very easy viewing, but I found that it did not qualify as an observational film. The editing was so suggestive that I didn’t leave any room for the audience to think and observe. So I threw out the whole thing and restarted the editing from scratch. An observational film has double meanings: the filmmaker observes open mindedly and the audience observes what is happening on the screen.

(Compiled by Yamamoto Shoko)

Interviewers: Yamamoto Shoko, Mineo Kazunori / Translator: Paul Mikaelsen
Photography: Mineo Kazunori / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2007-09-23 / in Tokyo