YIDFF 2009 YIDFF Network Special Screenings
Blinder in Winter, from Seeing
An Interview with Kato Itaru (Director)

Not Being Able to See Things Either Far Away or Close Up, What Exactly Can My Eyes See?

Q: This work is part of a 6-part omnibus, can you tell us about the production process?

KI: The order of the films wasn’t necessarily decided from the beginning. What had been decided was that we’d be making films between 10 and 20 minutes long. I was really interested in what kind of themes Matsumoto, the project planner, would propose. When I heard about this, I thought, well that’s just like Matsumoto. Matsumoto himself is someone who has obsessively stuck with Seeing, and we’re like that too. To put it the other way round, I thought I could make it without changing anything about my personal style. However, as the project proceeded, I became a liaison between Matsumoto, the producer Sano, and five other filmmakers besides me. So after that I thought that if I could make the kind of film which doesn’t get in the way of the others, then everyone would be able to make their films freely. With that in mind, I made my film with the intention of it being screened first. It seems that Matsumoto also understood this after seeing the film.

Q: At the beginning, you display characters similar to those in an eyesight test, how did you display those letters?

KI: We prepared 5 types of characters of differing sizes, and then shot them starting from far away and gradually getting closer. This is because eyesight differs depending on the person. But I’ve been very discreet about this, because if it gets out what characters have been written it won’t be any fun.

Q: Why did you have the scene of the conversation with Matsumoto Toshio?

KI: At the time of the first meeting, I thought maybe I could shoot something usable for the project, so I brought a small camera with me. That scene where he’s talking to himself, that’s Matsumoto’s answer to the question of what the English title for Seeing was going to be. And then I thought, “Ah, now I’ve got something!”

Q: Why did you choose the blinder as the motif for your film?

KI: Because I thought we could film something like the facial expression of a person who’s really staring hard, as if they’re taking an eyesight test. From middle school onwards I have been seeing things through contact lenses, but I only had to move closer to the object to be able to see it with my naked eye. However, recently I’ve also started to become long-sighted. For someone who’s short-sighted like me, that’s a really bizarre experience. I need something not only to see things which are far away, but also things that are close. Just what exactly can my eyes see? I felt like I couldn’t see anything at all. That experience was the original impetus for this film.

Q: What does seeing mean in Blinder in Winter?

KI: In the film you’re not just looking at something absent-mindedly, but gazing hard at it. When it came to representing that, I thought in order to depict seeing, why not depict not being able to see? During eyesight tests we cover up one of our eyes with a blinder, so I got curious and asked a friend, what is that thing like a spoon that we use, and I found out it’s called a shaganshi (blinder). I thought that this word shaganshi was really wonderful, and as I was using it all the time I began to become really attached to it. So naturally the first scene is the eye being covered with a blinder. To see the shrine on top of the mountain, binoculars intercede between the object of our gaze and the eye, yet even with binoculars we still cannot see that shrine. In the film we also see a magnifier, an eye mask, and a pair of spectacles interrupting vision. In other words the intention was that by showing something being used to intercept our gaze, we would lay bare the act of seeing.

(Compiled by Morito Satoko)

Interviewers: Morito Satoko, Abiko Harue / Translator: Oliver Dew
Photography: Chida Hiroko / Video: Chida Hiroko / 2009-09-18 / in Yamagata