Transforming Reality to Fiction
Q: This film is very different in form from your previous work. Was there some change in your mental outlook before and after Live Tape?
MT: Live Tape is the first film in which I credit myself Director. The documentaries I make take reality as its material but are really a result of mise-en-scene. I’m not filming objectively but from my desire to see the reality in a certain way or filmed in a particular way. In a way it is a reconstruction of the material, placed within my control. Therefore, for some people who are used to conventional documentary, my films may seem to be staged or over-directed. Until this film, I felt that the credits “Project Direction / Conception” felt closest to what I did. But with Live Tape, it didn’t. After the camera started rolling, I had to relinquish to the cameraman any plans I had developed as a director. Conception is what singer Maeno Kenta does in changing the lyrics of the songs on the spot. So my job was basically setting up the project, gathering the team together, and saying “Action!” and “Cut!” That doesn’t amount to the credits “Project Direction / Conception” so I decided to call my position Director. With this film, my approach to documentary changed a lot.
Q: What is the definition of documentary for you?
MT: Personally speaking, documentary is fiction storytelling using reality as its ingredients. When I say story, I don’t mean something like three act structure, but a certain drama that exists from the clashing of shots. That’s why editing is very important for me. By juxtaposing this shot with that shot, I can create a story that is different from straight reality. That’s what documentary can do. For example, after the great earthquake this year, many Tokyo documentary filmmakers went to shoot the tsunami and what’s happening in the Northeast and claimed they made films. But documentary is not news reportage. I doubted whether the results of fictionalizing reality could be completed so fast. Cinema cannot be made without fiction. I understand how journalists would want to rush onsite. But for cinematic filmmakers who are normally not shooting in that way, there’s no way they could suddenly take on this different approach. Making cinema is absolutely an act of violence. Only with Live Tape, a one-shot-one-film work, my definition grew broader. I gained confidence that we can properly make something we can proudly call cinema.
Q: This film allows a diverse audience to interpret it in many ways, doesn’t it?
MT: I shot Live Tape when several people close to me passed away one after the other and I was feeling very down. But as far as I know, nobody who saw the film felt depressed or lonesome. If I wanted an audience reaction I can predict, I won’t need to show it. I can imagine that people may judge it good or bad as a film, but the assessment is not why I make films. I want the film to reach someone’s heart. Live Tape in that sense reached places, for sure.
(Compiled by Hiroya Motoko)
Interviewers: Hiroya Motoko, Chiba Minami / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Watanabe Miki / Video: Koshimizu Emi / 2011-10-09