YIDFF 2013 International Competition | Perspectives Japan
Three Films Recording Tohoku: The Sound of the Waves, Voices from the Waves, Storytellers
An Interview with Sakai Ko, Hamaguchi Ryusuke (Directors)

To Talk, To Listen

Q: Interviewees in the film are presented with a delicate sense of distance, beginning conversations with self-introductions even though they know each other. I believe this makes for an atmosphere that is more ceremonious than natural. Can you describe this decision?

Hamaguchi Ryusuke (HR): The instant the camera is pointed at a subject, they don’t necessarily start to lie, but he or she is certainly not their normal self. Of course, I want to record individuals as they are, but I think for that to appear requires a degree of formality that necessitates entering a meaningful, ceremonial atmosphere. We must affirm the fakeness of the situation.

Sakai Ko (SK): There are many people who hide the existence of a camera, which often ends up leading to even greater falsehoods being recorded. Instead, we put the camera where it will be the most obvious, and I think when the interviewee accepts that of their own will, the viewer can also get even closer to the screen.

Q: I believe story-telling tends to be tinged with some sort of fictitiousness infused with personal experience. What do you think about this side of story-telling?

HR: When an individual faces a camera in order to relay a story, that individual has already begun to perform. The beginning may be perplexing, but as the subject gradually grasps the rules, he or she begins to move freely. This is very similar to an actor or actress. Performers in works of fiction tend to want a similar kind of freedom. For the camera, and for the sake of those who will ultimately watch the film, I think a story-like work must be produced. A story told for the viewer is, actually, a bit different from the truth.

SK: The truth or falsehood of that which is said is something that nobody really knows, right? In fact, variance can be found even in memories of a parent and child. I think the world each person wants to narrate begins to appear.

Q: I thought it was interesting that you started with The Sounds of the Waves, which left a strong impression of “speaking,” and ended up at Storytellers, which is more focused on “listening.” Across these three films on Tohoku, how did the subject or theme change?

HR: Now that you mention it, the original intention of The Sound of the Waves was to “record story-telling.” We began to think we could make a film from people telling stories. Though we wanted to get good stories every time, the two of us started discussing why exactly it happened or didn’t happen. And just as we were thinking about those sorts of things, we met the star of Storytellers, Ono Kazuko, the folktale collector. What Ono drew out of people was truly amazing.

SK: She can naturally draw out what the interviewee wants to say. I realized that it’s not that there are skilled and unskilled speakers, but rather the way an interviewee speaks is dramatically changed by the way the interviewer listens.

HR: This time, everyone interviewed appeared in the film. I discovered that anyone can tell a good story. I had thought that the creative power was on the side of the creator, but I changed my mind when I recognized there was something this brilliant right in front of me. Now I feel that the brilliance of what’s in front of us is dependent upon our attitude, and that I have to try my hardest to draw it out.

(Compiled by Miyata Mariko)

Interviewers: Miyata Mariko, Yamaguchi Nobukuni / Translator: Jason Douglass
Photography: Yamazaki Shiori / Video: Kubota Naho / 2013-10-12