YIDFF 2009 New Asian Currents
Nagai Park Elegy
An Interview with Sato Leo (Director)

A “Reasonable Life” Can Only Be Defined by Oneself

Q: What kind of group is NDS [Nakazaki-cho Documentary Space], of which you’re a member?

SL: It originally began in Kansai, where students of Hara Kazuo and Sato Makoto’s documentary courses subsequently made their own films and critiqued each other’s work.

Q: Did the riot scene take place in Nagai Park?

SL: No, the riot happened in Nishinari Ward in Osaka City. I inserted that scene because Nishinari-ku is a place where many day laborers live. People who have no jobs due to the economic downturn and their advanced age who became unable to support themselves ended up living in Nagai Park. In addition, at that time people in Nagai were making a stand against the government through ‘performance.’ I wanted to portray the contrast between that approach and the kind of resistance used in the riot. A “non-violent direct action workshop” was held in Nagai, and they contemplated the meaning of violence and non-violence. That’s why I inserted that scene.

Q: Were the performances put on regularly at Nagai Park?

SL: Young people often came to Nagai Park to hang out and interact with the homeless and their supporters. Some of them were actors, and before long they began performing with the homeless and their supporters. After the forced eviction at Utsubo Park, they performed at Kyoto University, and their second performance appears in the film. Though acting in the play, the homeless had wanted to leave proof that they had lived there.

Q: Why did you film these occurrences?

SL: At university, I was given an assignment in which I had to film someone near me who I didn’t know well, so I filmed a homeless person who was acting as a self-appointed traffic warden. After that, I found out about the situation of day laborers living in Nishinari Park and was shocked. Then I was asked to document the Utsubo Park eviction, and I was troubled by the screaming of the supporters and the violent action of the normally gentle homeless, which was the only part of the shoot that I found uncomfortable. Then I learned there was going to be a forced eviction at Nagai, so I told Nakagiri Kosuke who was living in Nagai in a tent and helping the homeless there that I wanted to make a documentary, and with his guidance I experienced the tent lifestyle for myself.

Q: What did you think of the supporters who came together at the time of the forced eviction?

SL: In the scene where the supporters discuss how to help the homeless, they had come to an understanding. They had been criticized by the media for their violent resistance at Utsubo Park, so they opened a workshop to consider how to act while taking into consideration the feelings of the homeless themselves. At the time, there was an atmosphere that rejected intellectualized discussion of subjects such as Palestine. Still, I think the mechanism in which people in vulnerable situations are made to suffer was the same. In that scene I expressed the dilemma of the supporters, where at times the homeless couldn’t understand their thinking and the two parties found themselves at odds with one another.

Q: What parts of the film do you want viewers to focus on?

SL: There’s a scene in the play in which a homeless person pleads with someone who has come to pull down their homes, saying “You and I are friends and possible allies.” The security guards on the frontlines had no choice but to accept unstable employment, and their situation wasn’t so different to that of the homeless. Even among them, there were those who were troubled at having to face off against such people. It was amazing that the performances were able to continue under those circumstances.

Q: After making this film, what do you think is needed to support the homeless?

SL: The requirements differ depending on the situation, so I don’t know what’s best. The supporters constantly struggle with that dilemma. It’s not up to other people to decide what constitutes a ‘reasonable lifestyle.’

(Compiled by Kusunose Kaori)

Interviewer: Kusunose Kaori / Translator: Don Brown
Photography: Shibata Sei / Video: Shibata Sei / 2009-09-25 / in Osaka