YIDFF 2007 New Docs Japan
A Permanent Part-timer in Distress
An Interview with Iwabuchi Hiroki (Director)

All Who Live Are Shipwrecked

Q: What kind of responses did you get at the Tokyo screening of this film?

IH: There were lots of older baby boomers who came, which was a surprise. They were saying that it made them remember their younger days, when they were passionately involved in the student protest movement. Some said they felt a certain energy. Others said that the last scene was devastating and dark. Young people felt a sense of freedom. I got many different types of responses, but people seem to be split in their conclusions according to how they interpreted the last scene.

Q: I personally thought that the last scene was full of life and vigor, a beautiful way to end a film. What was your feeling as you were shooting that last scene?

IH: I wasn’t thinking anything; I was just walking forward with my tired body, letting the music I was listening to dictate my footsteps. It just happened to be YMO that I was listening to.

Q: So why did you, knowing that the scene was a coincidence, use that as your last scene?

IH: It was almost a year after I started filming. I was starting to feel like I needed to finish this film. I just happened to be walking, talking and thinking how I was constantly struggling to get by in life while I was taking some footage. On the way home after taking that scene, I just had a gut feeling that “I can finish now,” or more like, “It’s finished.” Until then I had never looked over any of my footage, so right then and there I sat down and watched it. The music playing in the background of the last scene is the song I was listening to right then. When I was editing the film, that last scene fit so perfectly with the image I had in my mind that I decided to use it.

Q: I think that the word Sonan, a word used to describe being lost in a mountain or shipwrecked, in the title sounds very fresh.

IH: I consulted my producer Tsuchiya Yutaka and my advisor Amamiya Karin, and we decided together on the title. Sonan is perfect because this word connotes that you don’t know how you got there and have no idea where to turn; it’s like being lost on a mountain, unable to find the way back by yourself. If we used the word Nanmin, meaning refugee, it would indicate that there is someone out there targeting certain people and pushing them off the edge. But that is not the case. Not just the freeter (a phenomenon in Japan where people do various odd jobs and part time jobs as a career), it seems like everybody in the society is lost.

I don’t solely blame society for the existence of freeter. Rather, I believe it is the result of personal decisions made by individuals. I don’t share the same views as Tsuchiya and Amamiya, who are involved in public demonstrations and video activism. Of course they have influenced me, and I am amazed by their vitality.

Tsuchiya was more like a general director than a producer to me. I learned a lot about filmmaking from him. He taught me about composition, structure, and development. I have been in contact with him constantly since the treatment stage. For example, the original last scene was double the length with no narration. That was enough for me, but Tsuchiya told me that it is too drawn out.

It really made me realize the difficulty of artistic expression. Every time I see the film, I still wonder if I used the right words to narrate it. There is no end to these questions. Even now that it’s finished, I still don’t feel like I was able to express everything that was happening to me.

Q: What are your hopes as a participant in this film festival?

IH: Participating in this festival is actually something I drunkenly declared I would do when I was a college student at a party at Komian, a place where the YIDFF staff likes to hang out; so, it’s a dream come true, but it does feel a bit too soon. Anyway, I want many people, especially the younger generation, to watch my film.

Through my filmmaking experience, I have grown to better understand the simple joys of “expression.” It just feels great to express my solitary thoughts to other people like this. It’s a new experience for me, and I really enjoy it.

(Compiled by Kumagai Junko)

Interviewers: Kumagai Junko, Tanno Emi / Translator: Paul Mikaelsen
Photography: Tanaka Rio / Video: Tanaka Rio / 2007-09-30 / in Sendai