YIDFF 2009 International Competition
Japan: A Story of Love and Hate
An Interview with Sean McAllister (Director)

Naoki Is a Japan’s Hero

Q: I understand that at one time you abandoned your subject Naoki, so what was the main reason you went back to him?

SM: My theme was shooting Tokyo, so choosing Naoki would have been a departure from that. I filmed Naoki for a year, but at the time I was attracted to Tokyo as the center of Japan. I left Naoki and shot various places around Tokyo over about a year, and there I met a certain individual. I filmed him for around three months, but couldn’t establish a good relationship with him. It came to a head when we went to a hot spring together. I tried to shoot him while he was in the hot spring, and he got angry and went home. It was then that Naoki came to help me, taking up the camera and starting to film me. That’s where this film began.

Q: So would you consider Naoki your hero in Japan?

SM: Naoki is Japan’s hero. Not my hero, your hero. I was concerned as to whether Japanese audiences would identify with Naoki and understand this film, but as it progressed I felt that it took viewers along with Naoki and helped bridge the gap between them, and I feel that he’s stood up for the working poor.

Q: In the film, Naoki’s lover Yoshie appears without makeup and sleeping unguardedly. What kind of reaction did she have to the film?

SM: I spent two years from first beginning to shoot Naoki to deciding to choose him once again as the subject of the film. The subsequent filming took four to six months. I had Naoki’s understanding about the film from the beginning, and Yoshie gradually came to understand it too. At the time we discussed what kind of film it should become. When it came time for the film to be screened, Yoshie was very nervous and said she was so embarrassed she couldn’t even come to Yamagata, but as we received more and more responses she grew in confidence and drew encouragement from it, and she’s happiest about it now.

Q: In the scene at the post office you said it was almost communist, but what specifically made you feel that way?

SM: From a British perspective, Japan is extremely inefficient. I understand that in order to do your job you have to pay close attention to detail, but they divide one simple task among several people. That might be a way of sharing wealth amongst everyone, so I can’t say it’s a totally bad thing. Because of company hierarchy, the person at the very bottom has to ask the person above them, who asks the person above them, and I think it’s that repetition that is characteristically communist. Things would be better if people could think about everything freely.

Q: If you had to find a job in Japan, what kind of job would you do?

SM: I’d probably be homeless. The original idea for the “Tokyo Modern” piece was for me to become a salaryman in a Japanese company and film it. However, after barely working an hour I was struck with a powerful urge to jump out a window. Naoki says the same thing in the film, but I thought “Is this what people call quality of life?” If that’s the case, then Africa is more affluent by far. I thought that it’d be preferable to live in the African jungle.

Q: Are you already shooting your next work?

SM: I’m filming it in Syria now. Keep an eye out for it.

(Compiled by Takasaki Ikuko)

Interviewers: Takasaki Ikuko, Tayu Yamanouchi Hayward / Interpreter: Tayu Yamanouchi Hayward / Translator: Don Brown
Photography: Suzuki Hiroki / Video: Hsiao Shu-Yii / 2009-10-09