An Interview with Higa Chiaki (Director)
Performance, Okinawa and Me
Q: This film began as a university thesis project with a theme of “self-portrait.” Can you explain the progression to the ideas in the finished film?
HC: In talking about my identity, I’ve always questioned whether there’s some kind of “language of truth” that’s uninfluenced by others. I even attempted to shut myself away at home, but in the end I think our existence is defined by other people. Through doing the performance buried under the earth I understood this and that in emerging through the earth’s surface I felt I was projecting something, even in some small way, about my own existence. That’s what I tried to express.
Q: The way you utilized newspapers in the film was very effective. In striking the ground with bunched up newspapers and confining yourself within walls covered in newsprint it created a feeling of oppression. Was that what you intended?
HC: It’s not about newspapers, it’s about how information defines who we are and the stress caused by that information when it creates a “self” that we don’t like. I wasn’t intentionally fixating on newspapers but they were the easiest material to use when I was thinking of how to physically represent information.
Q: The newspaper headlines refer to issues in Okinawa, but did your own identity as an Okinawan influence the film?
HC: Both people from Okinawa and elsewhere said the film should be about Okinawa, but for me as long as I was shooting there I thought that it was perfectly natural for the film to contain Okinawan scenery. However, for me a film is conceived when I feel a “question mark” arise in me. And Okinawa inspires a lot of these question marks about things like love and anger. During a period of six months where I left Okinawa and was living in Saitama Prefecture I wasn’t motivated to make any films, perhaps because those question marks didn’t pop up. The future films I’m considering to make will also focus on Okinawa.
Q: Most films shown at film festivals are created as “movies,” but coming from an arts university background there’s a real freshness in the way you incorporate other forms of expression within your visual work such as three-dimensional creations, drawing, and performance. How does each form of expression differ for you?
HC: Through hands-on practice at university I learned methods of expression in two-dimensions and then three dimensions. Simultaneously, the things I wanted to express within myself also progressively broadened. Discovering performance was a defining moment for me because I was able to convey things that I had previously wanted to express but had given up on trying to in other forms. And the reason for filming it all is so I can transport it from place to place. Searching for answers to those “question marks” is like going on a journey which requires various settings along the way, so for me there’s a natural link between performance and visuals.
Q: Did making this film change you in any way?
HC: People are constantly changing and I’m still searching for who I am. Before making the film I felt fractured, but then various things began to connect and I felt I was able to bring all these aspects of myself together.
(Compiled by Abe Kurumi)
Interviewers: Abe Kurumi, Takasaki Ikuko / Translator: Jason Gray
Photography: Tsuruoka Yuki / Video: Kudo Rumiko / 2009-10-12