YIDFF 2009 New Asian Currents
The Memory of Being Here
An Interview with Kawabe Ryota (Director)

It’s Not There, Roll Camera

Q: Could you explain what led you to make this film?

KR: The film is set in May of 1997, at the time of the “Sakakibara Incident” (referring to a series of child maimings and murders in Kobe City). Whenever I watch news reports about big cases like this, it makes me think there is something not quite right about shooting people and locations related to such incidents. I wanted to make a film that examined the thought process of internalizing these incidents. What if, aside from these sensational cases, there were others that nobody reported on? What would happen if they occurred? That was the impetus behind starting this film.

Q: The subjects that appear in the film read from the screenplay in a monotone manner. Why did you decide on that style?

KR: When I made my previous film, Landscape with a Family (2006), I brought a “problem” into my daily domestic life and tried to turn it into a film. Rather than my family getting closer to the film through the things I was attempting to depict, the film got closer to my family. I had absolutely no connection to the apartment block in The Memory of Being Here and many of the people who appear on camera I was meeting for the first time. “The disappearance of Kawabe Ryota” was fiction, but rather than have the subjects add to that construct, I hoped that if they read these lines it would give birth to something that transcended narrative.

Q: There are a large number of still photographs used in the film. The combination of still and moving images seems to express “the memory of being here” and “the memory of not being here.” What are your thoughts?

KR: I’ve always felt photographs and moving images are fundamentally different. Moving images give us an impression of the present while still images express a moment that has already passed, which is then passed on to the viewer. When I thought about shooting this film, I wanted to combine these two elements. I didn’t want to shoot a film that was only about looking back or about a conclusion. Rather than the cause or effect of things, I want to explore what’s in between. I never want to make films that impart only one tone to viewers, so I like to include other elements to the best of my ability.

Q: As with your previous film you’re exploring a theme of “absence.” Why?

KR: I’m very interested in capturing the sense of “not there.” When the subject is not present, there is no target to aim a camera at. I always feel like I want to shoot something that is not there to shoot. I’m always conscious of “memory.” While some things leave traces, I’m trying to see things that leave nothing behind. In relation to this film, that would be the residents of the apartment block that we see, and the “Kawabe Ryota” of their memories that we don’t.

(Compiled by Takada Ayumi)

Interviewers: Takada Ayumi, Iida Yukako / Translator: Jason Gray
Photography: Iida Yukako / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2009-09-21 / in Tokyo