YIDFF 2005 BORDERS WITHIN—What It Means to Live in Japan
The River of Reconciliation
An Interview with Kim Duk-chul (Director)

Filmmaking Is Also Educational

Q: How did you get to know the high school students who are the main characters in the film?

KD: Co-director Mori Yasuyuki made the film The Ocean of Bikini Doesn’t Forget (1990) with students from the Hata High School Seminar. Several years later, members of the seminar learned that there were forced mobilizations of ethnic Koreans in their own Kochi Prefecture, and got interested in Korean issues. Mori wanted to make another film with them, but he didn’t have sufficient knowledge or confidence to deal with Korean issues, so he asked me to get involved. I met the high school students, and they were really energetic. They wanted to meet zainichi high school students, and if possible visit South Korea and North Korea too. They were passionate, and I thought it could be a good film and decided to join the project.

Q: From the start, were you thinking of co-directing?

KD: I thought that to really make this piece responsibly, we needed to have both perspectives on equal footing. After all, there are films where Japanese depict zainichi, and while they might be convincing to Japanese audiences, the films are found to be lacking by zainichi and Korean viewers. With my involvement, I wanted to make a good, moving film that could be convincing to both sides. In particular, this film deals with issues between North and South Korea. We don’t go to North Korea, but the situation gets complicated with the involvement of North Korean high school students living in Japan. I thought Mori wouldn’t be able to fully grasp aspects like the nuances of their expression, how to do the filming, and the selection of people for the film. In those situations different problems arise, and it’s possible that the screenings wouldn’t go well. I understood those things, so we talked it over and decided that we would both take responsibility for the film through completion as co-directors.

Q: Did you push the high school students when it came to making the film?

KD: Of course they wanted to go to South Korea, and to North Korea as well, but that was really difficult since Japan has no diplomatic relations with North Korea. Around that time, a zainichi North Korean high school student won the top award in NHK’s Youth Message contest. I caught it on TV. It was a wonderful message, saying “let’s meet.” The timing was good, and I urged the high school students to meet her, since they shared in common the desire to meet. It could have been a high school student from South Korea, a zainichi too, but with the high school student with North Korean nationality it became possible to talk about issues between North and South Korea, so I think it was even better.

If we just waited, the range of things that the high school students could do would have been limited. At that point, Mori and I proposed that they meet Kim Hak-sun, the first person who publicly testified as a “comfort woman” for the Japanese military, or the representative of Korean atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima. In the end, we respected the independence of the high school students in their decisions. Through making the film, I think they were able to get three or four times the experience of usual high school students. In a sense that is education, and I think we all made the film together, and Mori and I also learned a lot through participating.

(Compiled by Kato Takanobu)

Interviewers: Kato Takanobu, Kato Hatsuyo
Photography: Sakuma Harumi / Video: Sato Akari / 2005-10-12