YIDFF 2013 Perspectives Japan
Love Letter to a Place Called Slaughterhouse
An Interview with Kubota Chisaki (Director)

Discrimination is Hurtful because There are People I Love

Q: When I finished watching this movie, I felt a certain purity of spirit. At the end, the slaughterhouse floor appears, devoid of people. That was very beautiful and divine. I felt that in that scene, all the thoughts of those who work in the slaughterhouse were represented.

KC: Thank you. The whole time I was filming, I thought “I want to make a beautiful film.” And by “beautiful”—to put it simply—I mean a film that one would want to make into a postcard and hold onto forever. So it makes me very happy to hear that you thought it was beautiful.

Q: This film was your university thesis. Why did you choose a slaughterhouse as your theme?

KC: Actually, what I was thinking about at first was something entirely different. I have always loved animals. Thinking about stray cats and dogs getting put down made me quite sad, so I wondered if I could make some sort of film about animal rights. While I was filming animal rights activists, I met a vegan, the strictest kind of vegetarian, who doesn’t even eat products that come from animals-like milk and honey. I challenged myself to become a vegan as well, but I love meat, so I couldn’t continue. Because of that, my interest shifted, and I began to wonder, “What kind of process does the meat we all eat go through?” I asked the supermarket in my neighborhood, and was able to go observe a slaughterhouse in Ibaraki Prefecture. When I was researching before I left, for whatever reason, the term “discrimination” always came up, in reference to those who work in slaughterhouses. When I thought about it, this kind of discrimination appeared in my textbooks in school, but I began to wonder, “Do we really still have discrimination against people who work with meat?” After that, as an extracurricular university class, I went to Tokyo’s Shibaura slaughterhouse, to which I also made a personal trip. Amongst all this, I met Tochigi Yutaka, and he had quite an effect on me. Once, Mr. Tochigi told me that “there’s a person who reached retirement without once telling his wife what he did for work at the slaughterhouse.” I was very surprised. At the same time I thought that I wanted to make a documentary about slaughterhouses.

Q: Watching this film, I felt that you as a director got a deeper understanding of “discrimination” as you continued filming.

KC: The more I listened to the stories of people fighting long years of discrimination because of their work, the further my perspective shifted from “the lives of animals” to “the thoughts and love of those working at slaughterhouses.” In the film, we handle this “discrimination” but I didn’t just want to scream, “We shouldn’t discriminate against these people!” Because I want to protect my family and loved ones, I felt that discrimination is both frightening and upsetting. That was a big discovery for me.

Q: You also appear in the film. What was your intention behind this?

KC: I wanted to make it apparent to the viewers of this film that what they’re watching is through the eyes of a given person. I think there are both pros and cons to this film. But that’s because this film intends to show, to the very end, that it is “the perspective of a given person.”

Q: What are your thoughts behind the “Love Letter” in the title?

KC: In short, I was saying “This is my love letter for the people who work at slaughterhouses.” It also represents a love letter from those workers to their families. On the other hand, there is also that discriminatory letter in the film. That included, letters have this particular way of being unheard—of having a private life. I like letters, so I chose “Love Letter”to use as the keyword.

(Compiled by Sanpei Yoko)

Interviewers: Sanpei Yoko, Nagata Kanako / Translator: James Almony
Photography: Uno Yukiko / Video: Nishiyama Ayuka / 2013-09-29 in Tokyo