YIDFF 2009 Islands / I Lands—Cinemas in Exile
An Interview with Marutani Hajime (Director)

Creating a Film Is about Believing in the Possibilities of Editing

Q: How did you end up meeting Osanai Takashi?

MH: I met Mr. Osanai when I first visted Yakushima. He was living with his wife and daughter in a house he had built himself and was living self-sufficiently while he devoted his time to creative pursuits. It was a lifestyle I really envied. Yakushima was a place I intended to spend more time, so two years later I got in contact with Mr. Osanai again to see if he’d let me stay with him for a longer period.

Rather than filming other people I think it was more about getting to know myself. In the film Mr. Osanai is like a spokesman for the things I was thinking, making the film a reflection of myself in a way.

Q: I heard that while you were there you had only brought 10 tapes with you. How did you decide what to shoot?

MH: I didn’t go to the island with the intention of shooting a full film in the first place. I felt there would be something to shoot so I thought I should bring a camera and some tape just in case. I wanted to shoot the natural scenery there, and the lives of the people living at the foot of the mountain. I’ve enjoyed going to islands since my twenties. There was a time I was hopping on what seemed like boat after boat and what struck me was the insularity of islands. As if there’s no contact. Even on Yakushima, there are plenty of hamlets where people don’t leave their houses or interact with their neighbours.

At first I was editing in camera by doing things like rewinding and shortening shots, but by the end I was letting the camera roll. I didn’t know when something crucial would begin, so I’d just rewind a certain amount and start shooting again. Because I kept doing that, there were some important shots I lost.

Q: I understand there was a gap of two years between shooting and editing. Why was that the case?

MH: I shot another film in the interim. I used the LP mode on the camera and realized I couldn’t make something good enough to screen so I abandoned the project. When I reviewed the footage some of it had been taped over but some of it was really interesting. Although had I shot all of it myself, I was able to watch it with the objectivity of an audience.

Reflection took form in the editing phase. Some of the timing in my editing is different, but there are sequences where the order of the shots is the same as they were recorded. In places where completely different shots are inserted, the sense of time on the island and in film itself come out.

Q: In the end credits, the film is dedicated to Sato Makoto. What were your feelings in dedicating it to him?

MH: I was never able to show him the finished film. The day he was going to review it he was admitted to the hospital. There were chances for him to see it at earlier stages but I didn’t want to show it to him unfinished so I kept putting it off.

One important thing he taught me was “If you leave the footage you shot as is, your subject matter will never come to life.” This is the potential of editing. Creating a film is about believing in the possibilities of editing. This was the number one thing I learned. If I hadn’t been taught that, I wouldn’t have been able to make this film.

(Compiled by Ishikawa Munetaka)

Interviewers: Ishikawa Munetaka, Sato Hiroaki / Translator: Jason Gray
Photography: Tsuchiya Mao / Video: Sasaki Tomoko / 2009-10-12