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Latest documentary "Oyster Factory" has been officially invited to Locarno International Film Festival 2015! 最新作『牡蠣工場』がロカルノ国際映画祭へ正式招待されました!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Director's Statement on PEACE


by Kazuhiro Soda

In the summer of 2009, the DMZ Korean International Documentary Festival in the border city of Paju, South Korea, asked me to make a 20 minute-short documentary about peace and coexistence. But honestly, I wasn’t so keen on the idea at first.

One reason is that I firmly believed I should never set up a theme before I make a documentary. Otherwise, there is a danger that the theme becomes more important than the reality itself, and would dictate my filmmaking process. I would shoot materials that might fit to the theme rather than learn from what I see. I believed that the theme should be discovered only after the long process of observation of the world through shooting and editing.

I was also hesitant to deal with such a big theme as peace and coexistence, which sounds too politically correct and can be perceived as almost cliché. I was saying to myself, “There’s no question that everybody wants peace and coexistence. Why should I make a movie about such an obvious theme?”

I was about to decline the offer.

However, in the fall of the same year, I suddenly changed my mind. While I was casually videotaping Toshio Kashiwagi, my father-in-law, feeding some stray cats in his neighborhood in Okayama, Japan, I got an idea for the movie. He was feeding a peaceful community of stray cats, but the situation became shaky because a male “thief cat” from outside was trying to invade their territory. It reminded me of the problems we human beings have, and I was convinced that I could make a short documentary about the issues of coexistence among cats.

But, while shooting the relationship between my father-in-law and his cats, I also became interested in his work as a welfare taxi driver, and the way he deals with his clients. Through him, I further got acquainted with Shiro Hashimoto, a 91-year-old gentleman who was contemplating his own death. This made me curious about the work of Hiroko Kashiwagi, my mother-in-law, who was taking care of Hashimoto. While shooting all these scenes that attracted me, it became apparent that a 20-minute short documentary was turning into a feature.

While I was shooting this film, there was one thing I constantly reminded myself; the theme of peace and coexistence should only serve as a starting point. What is most important is to explore the cinematic journey without being bound to where I began.

So, I decided to shoot whatever interested me, even if it seemed to have no relation to the theme. The scenes of Hashimoto are the typical examples. In fact, if I were only concerned with the theme, I wouldn’t have shot any of them.

Just like in my other observational documentaries, I prohibited myself from doing any research or meeting prior to shooting to avoid having preconceptions. During the editing, I put aside the theme, and tried to make discoveries by accumulating scenes that interested me. In this sense, I practiced my usual observational method of filmmaking.

However, it’s wrong to say that I was not influenced from the theme I tried to forget. In fact, throughout the filmmaking process, I found myself constantly thinking about these questions: What is peace? What is coexistence? How can they be realized, and how can they be destroyed? And I believe that the finished film asks the same questions to the audience, too. The film also explores the meaning of Japan’s post-war era and its future, thanks to Hashimoto’s unexpected war stories and his favorite cigarette brand “Peace,” a long-selling tobacco that came out in January 1946 right after Japan’s defeat in WWII.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous5:13 PM

    I am going to see this film at the Vancouver International Film Festival. watashi-wa Kurashiki-shi de 6 nen gurai sumimashita. kono eiga wa Okayama-ken no dochira machi desu-ka. Onegaishimasu

    bob-san

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  2. Great. It was shot in Okayama-city. Looking forward to it!

    ReplyDelete