An Interview with Oki Masaharu (Director)
Not to Record but to Capture Sound
Q: This was a film that really well communicated the atmosphere of the shoot. I heard that the request for you to document this event was what triggered this film project to start?
OM: First off, Mr. Arai Ryoji was set to do a workshop at the Yamagata Manabikan—which is the old campus of Yamagata Number One Public Elementary—and I was asked to document that. I had thought that it was just a simple job to document the exhibition but later I realized that the project I was working on was to be screened at the film festival.
Q: In the film, there were no explanations about what exactly this workshop was about. Why wasn’t a specific explanation included?
OM: When I was first asked to work on this project, I asked them if I should explain what exactly this workshop was about, but they replied very generously that I was to make it anyway that I wanted to. Therefore, I decided to make it the way I had envisioned with no explanation, music or narration. This also gave me the excitement of testing out what viewers would be able to infer and understand only from the information provided.
Q: I imagine that having no explanation takes a lot of courage. You must have worried that people would not understand the film?
OM: Yes, I was worried. However, I thought that as long as the viewers could see that there are remarkable people in the world that is all that mattered. So, I didn’t even want Mr. Arai to explain it with his words. I was always thinking about ways of expression that cannot be made through words. I believe that one can find enjoyment from lack of comprehension. I wanted to display that sort of weirdly uncomfortable pleasure in this film.
Q: With this being your first feature length film, your main theme is sound?
OM: I had always wanted to capture sound. So, I decided to use this coincidental opportunity of shooting a film freely at Mr. Arai’s exhibition to conceptualize it around sound. As soon as I decided that I wouldn’t use sounds or narrations, I also decided that I would only use the sounds I was able to record at the scene. There were some amateuristic human-errors that caused us some trouble, such as where sound wasn’t recorded correctly, but the fact that I was able to finish a 98 minute about sound gave me a lot of confidence. Because there is no explanation, I hope that the viewers can be touched just by listening to the sounds from the actual set.
Q: Were your previous works centered on sounds as well?
OM: No, as a matter of a fact my previous projects were things like a 20 minute piece with no sound at all. So, maybe the reason why I wanted to capture sounds so much was a reaction to that. Everything was new for me when it came to sound so I had to start from buying the appropriate gear.
Q: I heard that many of your staff members were shooting individually, but what kind of direction did you give them?
OM: Nothing in particular. The one thing I told them was to capture the children by getting close to them rather than using a zoom. I thought it would be interesting to be able to see the children’s reactions to the camera and their interactions with each other. That is why we were able to get shots like girls with natural expressions; something that would have been very difficult for me to get.
(Compiled by Oka Tatsuya)
Interviewers: Oka Tatsuya, Okuyama Shinichiro / Translator: Kenji Green
Photography: Oishi Mone / Video: Ito Ayumi / 2011-09-23 in Yamagata