YIDFF 2009 New Docs Japan
Field Feet
An Interview with Onishi Kenji (Director)

A Visual History—20 Years of Gazing

Q: As well as being a documentary shot from your own perspective, I also felt that this film was something of a visual poem. Were you conscious of this while you were making the film?

OK: At the moment I do think many people read into films. In other words, I believe today’s film goers are trying to interpret the meaning of the visuals and are making great efforts to understand deeply what they see. However, I just want them to sit back and enjoy my film in the dark with the rest of the audience. So they shouldn’t be thinking too much. I want them to react to the light as it reaches their eyes as signals, listen to the sounds that reverberate and just enjoy the experience of viewing a film in a dark cinema. Field Feet is a visual record capturing 20 years of such human gazing.

Q: This documentary is made up of fragments of everyday visual recordings that you have been filming ever since a 8mm camera came into your possession when you were 17. Is this a concept you’ve had for a long time?

OK: Ever since I was young it was on my mind as I was shooting to splice things together sometime decades in the future. In reality, however, I found that the scenes I set up like that purposely were pretty boring. To be honest, as I also realized that 8mm film was a medium that might not be a round in a few years, I thought it was a good time to pull it all together.

Q: How did you go about choosing scenes out of the immense amount of material you have filmed in the past?

OK: I avoided using footage that carried concrete meanings and unnecessary components. Instead I constructed the film simply using colors, shapes and patterns. As a result, in order to achieve the film’s original concept of “watching light” in the simplest way possible, the main flow of the movie is made up of visual fragments of everyday life, making use of visuals that are humdrum, puerile and ordinary as much as possible.

Q: Throughout the documentary I felt the inclusion of elements that are usually unwelcome when using film, such as blemishes, smudges and unevenness in development, actually expressed the rawness of film.

OK: Like colors and shapes, scratches are also a major part of the movie. I want the audience to acknowledge the visuals as “having gunk on them,” instead of just considering them “dirty.” With regard to sound as well, I was adamant about reproducing the unique 8mm sound. The sound of 8mm is far from good, but that’s what I was going after—even if the sound is muffled and indistinct. Also I have paid great attention to the sound of film itself—voice band blemishes and static electric crackling. Noise is also an important element in this movie. In a film, no matter how hard you try, as a director you cannot control everything. Things are transmitted that you had no intention of transmitting. I don’t know whether people will pick up on that, but I think that to a certain extent Field Feet is a movie that will stimulate the sensitivity of the audience.

(Compiled by Minai Kyoko)

Interviewers: Minai Kyoko, Morito Satoko / Translator: Lynne Hobday
Photography: Tsuchiya Mao / Video: Tanaka Kayako / 2009-10-13