YIDFF 2019 Perspectives Japan
Listening to the Air
An Interview with Komori Haruka (Director)

Recording Memory Defies Limits of Imagination

Q: The voice of Abe Hiromi, radio host of Rikuzentakata Disaster FM and axle of the film, inspired me to think about the different powers of speech. What are your feelings about “the voice”?

KH: When I find myself drawn to filming someone, it’s often about the voice. Ms. Abe’s voice is her own, but it also belongs to others. It feels like a “first-person rendition of multiple people.” When talking on air, she uses the pronoun “we” instead of “I.” And yet she is not pretending to be speaking literally for everyone. I noticed that she herself is someone who can embody the role of delivering the emotions of many different people.

Q: I feel that you are always conscious of the distance between you and each of your subjects. How do you deal with the fact that you will never be able to understand a first-hand disaster experience?

KH: I don’t know Rikuzentakata before the earthquake, and can never know Ms. Abe completely. That’s certainly an absolute distance that slaps me in the face, but on the other hand perhaps that’s exactly the reason why I want to stay close by—because I don’t know. I go about filming within the limits of my understanding, but then the footage can teach me. It’s like the camera between us allows me to comprehend what I can’t grasp through direct human contact. When the camera captures facial expressions and light that only it can record, this can convey language and emotions in its full imagery. I guess this is what I am searching for. Once defined by the camera, the image can be delivered to people even further away than me.

Q: The landscape shots and the narrated content are not placed chronologically. What was your thinking in the editing?

KH: When I interviewed Ms. Abe in 2018, she spoke as if she was groping around, because the disaster radio experience was a bit distant for her. The editing traced this by going back and forth in time, as if remembering one story took us to another time. I wanted to transmit the memories as fragmented pieces. Moreover, these personal memories are also collective to the experience all the townspeople went through. There’s a disconnect between the town before raised-ground redevelopment and the town in 2018. They are totally different. So even if you are standing on the same spot, you cannot no longer imagine what was there before. I felt strongly about not wanting to forget, and to defy amnesia.

Q: What is your sense about the reconstruction of Rikuzentakata—that it can “return to what it was” or “become new”?

KH: With the building of the new town, I realize that despite the changed form, a daily life has been recovered. Each in their own place, the people have rediscovered the rhythmical beat of their life. And yet not everything is back to normal. So I think they are living their days carrying a very complex burden. Ms. Abe talks about how she likes the view from her back door. She is affirming the new landscape she sees, and the act of enjoying something beautiful. I feel that is something the local residents have earned for themselves. Of course the reconstruction is being implemented without their participation, but they are not just passively putting up with the changes. By proclaiming “This is my town,” the people come to love the town today. By living a daily existence, they are recreating a hometown for themselves and for the next generation.

(Compiled by Morisaki Hana)

Interviewers: Morisaki Hana, Oshita Yumi / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Tokunaga Ayano / Video: Tokunaga Ayano / 2019-10-14