An Interview with Sakashita Kiyoshi (Director)
Looking at What You Do Not Understand
Q: The theme of the film is Matsuakashi. In it, I feel like the casual behavior of and nonchalant conversations with the people in Miyako City are brought forth. However, when it comes to questions about the origin and significance of Matsuakashi, the local people were not able to respond well. Did you expect it would be this way before you began filming?
SK: No, I hadn’t expected it at all. Because I thought that someone would have explicit knowledge of the origin and significance, I was under the impression that if I edited just that portion it would be about fifteen minutes long.
Q: Were you frustrated by the fact that the answers you were looking for did not come right away?
SK: The family I visited on the first day didn’t work out, and neither did the second family on the second day. That happened over and over. I felt frustrated . . . But I thought that understanding the situation and customs would be a clue and I decided to use that.
Q: What made you start with the theme of Matsuakashi in Miyako in the first place?
SK: Until I turned 18 and left for Kyoto, I was raised in the same way as the people in the film where the families naturally did Matsuakashi. I left Miyako and when I talked with my friends at university about what I would do for Bon vacation, I said that for Bon there is Matsuakashi so I’d go home. When they asked me what Matsuakashi was, I couldn’t answer. That summer I returned home and researched at the library, but there wasn’t a single document on Matsuakashi. That’s probably where it started.
Q: Besides working as a photographer, you also shoot videos. How did your activities change before and after the earthquake?
SK: The first award I received as a photographer was for a piece with a city theme. Just before the earthquake I had been trying to do a video version of it, but after the earthquake there were bigger problems, so I presented it a few years later. Before the earthquake I created this kind of artwork, but in addition to the many musicians and comedians who work in the affected areas being reconstructed, I also felt as if art were almost powerless. I wondered if the people Miyako would be happy with this kind of artwork.
Q: In what way are photographs and video images different?
SK: In the old days, I took photographs on several occasions with Matsuakashi as the theme. But these were different from what I thought Matsuakashi was. It was very dark. Maybe it’s an occupational hazard, but I wanted to take pictures with the biggest possible impact. Yet this is an exaggerated world and I was uncomfortable seeing the truth. With Miyako, I thought it would be impossible to take photographs.
Q: You are currently in the process of making a documentary on Kawauchi deer dance, so why are you continuing to take pictures of Miyako customs?
SK: There aren’t many people who are very interested in the customs. So, I think that it would be good if there were even one more person who had an interest. I believe right now it is recognized that “of course this is done,” but if these things let go of the customs will grow weaker. There are a lot of things like this in Miyako, so I want to deal with them one by one.
Q: Finally, what part of the film would you like the audience to focus on?
SK: When facing history, I think what human beings can understand is really limited. That’s why after the screening I wanted to avoid prompting the audience understand. The best impression might be one where you feel like you didn’t understand anything.
(Compiled by Kawashima Shoichiro)
Interviewer: Kawashima Shoichiro / Translator: Kat Simpson
Photography: Kusunose Kaori / Video: Kusunose Kaori / 2015-09-24 in Osaka