YIDFF 2015 Cinema with Us 2015
Trace of Breath
An Interview with Komori Haruka (Director)

Recording the Present

Q: Your main character Sato Teiichi declares “It’s the Kesen Spirit (Kesen-damashii)” and seems to carry on with his life with a positive attitude. There is hope underlying his words “There’s sure to be a bright ahead.” How did you first meet him?

KH: After the earthquake, I went to volunteer in the Tohoku coastal areas with my friend Seo Natsumi. That led to my moving to Rikuzentakata one year later, where I lived for about three years. I encountered so many people in the area, people who had lost a lot in the tsunami, who were now trying to find ways to somehow preserve what had been taken away from them and to transfer memory into form. For example they were writing diaries, taking photographs, or speaking publically about their experiences. One of the many people who were explicitly intentional about recording memory and communicating it to the future was Mr. Sato. I have filmed many other characters, but for this film I focused on Mr. Sato alone.

Q: We see many scenes where Mr. Sato is speaking to you in the shot. What was your intention in using them?

KH: It was not intentional, but rather a natural course of recording. Many people who see the film comment on that, saying it left a strong impression. This film spends a lot of time with Mr. Sato alone, and so I did want to add some outside perspective. As a result, perhaps the conversation between he and me allowed audiences to see Mr. Sato as a standalone individual.

Q: Why did you start filming in the disaster zones?

KH: I began by taking part in volunteer work all along the coast, but I was never sure if I were being of assistance or not. I didn’t dare take out the camera I carried along with me, and I was feeling acutely how helpless I was as an artist. Around that time, a grandma I met at an evacuation center asked me to go take photographs of her old house. Her house had been hit by the disaster and a loved one had perished. She was devastated and could not bear to visit the place herself. “If you can go to my place, please take some pictures of it,” she said, allowing me the task of recording on her behalf. That was the beginning of my filming along the coastal regions.

Q: What were your experiences during your life in Rikuzentakata?

KH: The changes were immense. In the three years I was there, the landscape changed entirely. Remnants of the old neighborhoods gradually disappeared, and the construction of a new town—something that felt a bit inept for me—began. For the residents, it became a very busy time that didn’t allow them space to contemplate on their lives. My role amidst all that was to record the present. I was hoping that the record of events would later help us think better when things calmed down.

Q: Tell us what you are doing nowadays.

KH: We are doing research on the effects of the disaster across the six northeastern prefectures and planning ways to output the results. Meanwhile, I want to continue the act of recording that will formulate the main pillar for other new films. The desire to communicate what I recorded is still alive and well.

(Compiled by Fukushima Nana)

Interviewers: Fukushima Nana, Satsusa Takahiro / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Kusunose Kaori / Video: Iwata Kohei / 2015-10-11