YIDFF 2013 Cinema with Us 2013
The People Living in Hadenya
An Interview with Agatsuma Kazuki (Director)

Finding the Resolve to Make a Film

Q: When I saw your film, the first scene of the tsunami, which featured a dark screen with sound only, made a strong impression on me. Your film also showed that you were very close to the people of Hadenya. You said that you found yourself unable to return to Hadenya immediately after the disaster, but can you explain why that was?

AK: I was afraid that the people of Hadenya had all been swept away by the tsunami, and I didn’t know what good I’d do anyone there, so I couldn’t make myself go back right away. I also had no desire to film anything at the time. The reason that the first scene of the tsunami only has sound is that I’d left my video camera running inside my bag when I myself was fleeing from the tsunami. As a filmmaker, I knew that I needed to go back and film Hadenya. My car, with all my equipment inside it, had been washed away, and all I had was the five minutes of film left in the video camera I had on me. This probably calls my fitness as a filmmaker into question, but I figured that if that was all I had left, I might as well not go back to film anything, and I stayed away from Hadenya for a while.

Q: How did your relationship with the people of Hadenya change after the disaster?

AK: Before the earthquake, I’d kept my reasons for being there to myself, so the people I was filming in Hadenya didn’t know what my motivations were. However, I thought that if I went back to film Hadenya in the terrible aftermath of the disaster with that same attitude, it would just make things more difficult, so after the earthquake I decided that I would be open with everyone about what exactly I wanted to do. I would deal with any opposition, I would be frank with them, and I would convince them to let me continue filming. As I went on with the filming, I let the people of Hadenya know of my deep desire and resolve to make this documentary about them.

Q: How did the preview screenings in Hadenya go?

AK: When I screened a 6-hour version of the film in December 2011, I thought I’d made the best possible film I could make. But in the aftermath of the disaster, most of the people there weren’t interested in watching a film about Hadenya, but rather wanted to relive their memories of Hadenya. Also, I’d felt that I needed to incorporate my own point of view into the film, and as I grew more determined to make the film everything I wanted it to be, I’d added in more and more explanations and superfluous parts. I had a hard time editing it down after that, but I managed to set aside my own ideals for a while, and I shortened it into a 56-minute version that focused on highlighting the images themselves. In December 2012, I screened the film a total of six times at a temporary assembly hall. At the second screening, something interesting happened. You may remember Oyama Chuichi, who talks about the fishing business in the film. He died in the tsunami, and his body was finally discovered a year and three months later. At the screening, his daughter stayed behind after everyone had left, and said that she wanted to watch the film one more time. But when I played the film again, it started from the scene where Chuichi is speaking directly to the camera. I tried starting the film from the beginning, and I took the disc out and put it back in the machine, but no matter what I did, it kept on starting at the same place. It almost felt like Chuichi was speaking directly to his daughter, and telling her, “I’m here.” We say that “people live on in films,” don’t we? It’s also said that a movie speaks through its images, and this miracle made me feel that I’d been able to get something really special out of the images in my film.

Since I felt that I needed to use Hadenya to give an accurate picture of what life was like for people living at this point in time in all the disaster areas, I was ultimately unable to end this film with the 56-minute version. I packed it full with everything I was feeling inside, and the film that resulted was the 128-minute version screened at this film festival.

(Compiled by Kubota Naho)

Interviewers: Kubota Naho, Kusunose Kaori / Translator: Kato Lisa Somers
Photography: Suzuki Noriko / Video: Suzuki Noriko / 2013-10-14