YIDFF 2009 New Docs Japan
Tanaka-san Will Not Do Calisthenics
An Interview with Maree Delofski (Director)

Like a Drop of Water on a Stone

Q: Can you tell us your frank opinion about Tanaka-san’s method of resistance?

MD: I thought it was very individualistic, very unusual and fascinating. Such an interesting example of how a very small action for a very long time can have some effects. It’s like a drop of water on a stone. I admire his tenacity. It’s not the way I would do it, but he has made it into his life. And he seems to be a very happy man.

Q: Did you go through the entire filming without any interpreters?

MD: Yes. I didn’t try to raise any money because I didn’t want anybody telling me how to make the film. So I had very little money and I couldn’t afford to pay for an interpreter. Therefore I developed a method with Tanaka-san for interviews. I would ask him the questions in English and he would answer in Japanese and then in English. I would choose which one I would use in the editing. Interestingly, sometimes the English version was better to use because he had told his story before, so it would come out very mechanically in Japanese. In his answers in English, he would be struggling to find the words. I wouldn’t recommend it as a system, except not having an interpreter actually meant there was no barrier. We just had to struggle and find a way of communicating, and it meant that we developed a particular relationship and a lot of humor in the relationship.

Q: Did you have any conflict with Tanaka-san during the filming?

MD: Not real conflict, but it was difficult because Tanaka-san is a very bossy man. He doesn’t really know anything about filmmaking, but he would think that he did. So I had to be very strong with him. I said, “Tanaka-san, I am the director. I know. You don’t know about these things.” Sometimes I would get things wrong technically because it was my first time to use the camera. So I think he initially thought maybe I was an amateur. But he would laugh and accept it when I would say to him, “No, I know about this. You have to trust my skill.”

Q: What do you think about Oki, the company that fired Tanaka-san?

MD: I really didn’t want to focus on Oki. It just happens to be Oki. Tanaka-san focuses on Oki, of course, but I didn’t want to make a film that was a big polemic about Oki. That wasn’t my interest. My interest was in this man who keeps doing this thing outside this particular place for a very long time.

Q: How did the Australian audience respond when seeing this film?

MD: Very interesting. They tell me when the film begins they think Tanaka-san is a bit strange. They wonder if he is OK. And then as the film goes on, they grow to know him and to like him very much. I think they like him because a lot of Australians don’t like authority. They also say they like it because they see a side of Japan that they don’t normally see; it’s outside the stereotype. Some of them say if they were in Tokyo on the 29th of the month (when Tanaka-san does sit-in protest), they would go and meet him.

(Compiled by Murakami Yumiko)

Interviewers: Murakami Yumiko, Hozumi Maki / Interpreter: Goto Taro
Photography: Abiko Harue / Video: Morito Satoko / 2009-10-13