An Interview with Pirjo Honkasalo (Director)
Why Does Hatred for Enemies Grow?
Q: Why did you decide to deal with the Chechen war?
PH: Russia has kept all information about the Chechen war within the country, and started claiming that the war is not really happening. The Chechen war has been very hidden. And Europe turns a blind eye, since it depends on Russia for oil. The nations of Europe sweep the war under the rug by saying that the encroachment on human rights is a domestic issue within Russia. Nobody tries to fight for human rights. As a filmmaker, I couldn’t just stand by without doing anything, given that I knew what was happening. But a real issue is that for my own country of Finland, despite the fact that we share a 1,200 km border with Russia, ordinary people have shut their eyes because of oil, business and trade. This film isn’t a so-called political work, but I strongly felt the need to address the war in Chechen.
Q: Why did you focus on children?
PH: The hearts of children are innocent. This film depicts “hatred for one’s enemy.” This isn’t limited to Chechnya. People aren’t born with hatred in the hearts, so why is it that people grow to hate their enemies? I don’t know the mechanism that propagates hatred, but even so, in this film I intended to show the phenomena of that process. Perhaps through this film, you can sense why hatred is propagated, why things end up like that. As you’ll see in the film, Russian children and Chechen children are children all the same. Why do they have to become enemies? And even so, it is possible that everything will come to an end with those children killing each other.
Q: What is the meaning of the title?
PH: “Rooms” represent the spiritual state of each of the Russian, Chechen and Ingush children. As in music it’s formed like a symphony. They are each one piece, and I hope you can appreciate the entire work as a completed piece of music.
Q: The sleeping faces of children that appear repeatedly in the film left a strong impression.
PH: For me, the sleeping faces are important. When sleeping people are all the same, pure and peaceful, but when they wake up, each person is in their own world. Russian children are woken up hurriedly, and the Chechen children are woken up gently. The world begins from there.
I picked that military academy because it is in a very closed in space. The school itself is on a small island, with all the students boarding there, so it would be easy to be brainwashed if you were there for seven years.
Q: Is there any end to the vicious cycle of adults’ hatred being propagated within the hearts of children?
PH: Hadizhat is a woman in the film who cares for children in a ruined Chechen town. I felt hope when she saw the film and said, “I want to make Russian children my own too.” I think motherly or fatherly affection and love might be able to break the cycle of hatred, and maybe someone will be able to work a miracle.
(Compiled by Kashiwazaki Mayumi)
Interviewers: Kashiwazaki Mayumi, Okuyama Kanako / Interpreter: Saito Shinko
Photography: Sakuma Harumi / Video: Saito Kenta / 2005-10-11