YIDFF 2015 New Asian Currents
When the Boat Comes In
An Interview with Khin Maung Kyaw (Director)

The Beautiful Sea Harbors the Endless Unhappiness of the People

Q: Throughout the film I felt that you shot the people fishing very compellingly, and the sea itself very beautifully. Where were you, mentally, when you switched on the camera?

KMK: My stance when shooting is to put the other party, the subject of the film, first. I start by trying to understand them well, then I carefully observe, and finally I try to film my subjects’ natural state as conscientiously as possible. I absolutely do not impose anything on my subjects. My role is to film the things that happen in that place, and nothing more. I first encountered the village that is the location for the film when I was on holiday ten years ago, when I was sixteen. I was moved at the natural beauty of that village, and it remained in my heart even as an adult. The beauty of that beach is so striking, and now that I’ve become a filmmaker, I thought, I wanted to bring the camera to the village on that beach.

The people there have to go out fishing even if there is bad weather and a rough sea. When I was filming I became acutely aware of the fact that they risk their lives to confront the ocean. I had met with the family that appears in the film several times while doing preparatory work. Talking to them I sensed that there was a story hidden away inside and I felt that I could turn that into a film, so I started filming. The people in that area are all extremely unhappy with their work, and they are in a vicious circle of debt. In no way are they fishing because they enjoy it. Everyone in the village is harboring an unhappiness that they cannot resolve, and I wanted to make that into a film.

Q: The final scene, in which fishing is halted by a single sheet of paper, has an impact through its contrast to the foregoing scenes that depict people’s everyday lives. Did you have any particular designs in sequencing the film in this way?

KMK: In roughly two weeks of filming we truly had lots of different things happen. That letter in the last scene really did arrive toward the end of the period of intense filming. Day after day I lived with them, staying glued to them without missing a thing, so that when anything at all out of the ordinary happened I could start filming. I was able to get this footage because I actually experienced fishing, getting wet right alongside them.

Q: So the villagers harbor a lot of unhappiness with their lives in the village, but did they take a favorable view toward your making the film?

KMK: When I screened the finished film for them they were absolutely delighted. The reason is because they have no means of pushing back against the government’s fishing ban, and no means of making their situation known to the world. This is why they were so happy to have a film made in this way, to have a record. The villagers really welcomed me.

But in reality, unless the government changes their situation will not change either. At the moment the people of the village feel powerless. Not a few villagers have sold the houses they’d had in the village and moved to Thailand to find work. I think that in the near future this village will cease to exist. There are families who were living in the village when I screened the finished film who have since moved away. That people are continuously leaving the village is a fact.

(Compiled by Hirai Mona)

Interviewers: Hirai Mona, Harashima Aiko / Interpreter: Yoshimaru Cain / Translator: Tyler Walker
Photography: Inagaki Haruka / Video: Uno Yukiko / 2015-10-12