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!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Interview on PEACE by Barbara Stowe

Interview on PEACE by Barbara Stowe on The Bulletin.

At a Q and A at the Pacific Cinemateque following a screening of “Peace” the night before this interview, Soda Kazuhiro explained that this documentary was commissioned by a Korean border town for a film festival on the topic of peace and coexistence. He almost turned down the commission because he usually works without a premise in mind, finding his thematic thread only later, in the editing room. What began as a short turned into a 75-minute feature that has been well received in Korea, Japan and by the VIFF audience.
What was the name of the town that commissioned the film?
Paju. It’s a border city, between North Korea and South Korea, and it’s right next to the DMZ—the demilitarized zone—which is two km wide along the borderline. That’s where the film festival takes place. Obviously it’s kind of symbolic to have a film festival there with the theme of peace and coexistence, so for them to screen the film they commissioned was kind of a big deal. They were very passionate about it.
Part of this town is in North Korea and part in South?
The town itself belongs to the south. But it’s right at the border between North and South Korea. You feel the tension because the riverbank is all wired up—(here Kazuhiro made a circular gesture, indicating barbed wire)—and there are many military personnel walking around…The opening of the festival was planned to be held at the Freedom Bridge which connects North and South Korea and there were many soldiers protecting the events when we arrived.
Why do you think they chose you to make the film?
I have no idea. I don’t know why they picked me. I’ve done…my previous film, it’s called “Mental”, it premiered in Pusan in 2008 and it won the best documentary award there. That’s probably one of the reasons.
Does the Japanese word for “peace” translate into exactly the same meaning as the English word or are there differences?
Ahh…it’s almost the same I think. It’s funny, usually words have…I mean, they overlap but not exactly, but peace and “heiwa”, I don’t see too much difference.
Taking peace as a subject inherently promises an exploration of conflict resolution. Within the cat society there was a clearly defined conflict and a neat resolution, but within the human society there was no simple resolution. I’m wondering if that was part of your message, that society’s care of its most vulnerable members is a difficult matter without any easy answers?
In terms of message I don’t have any message to convey. My films…if I want to convey a message I wouldn’t make a film, I would probably write an essay because it’s much easier. For me, film is a way to depict the way I see the world and especially when I’m making documentaries I try to recreate my experience…I see some people, I witness some events, I hear stories…that kind of personal experience I can recreate in a cinematic reality and it can include some sort of atmosphere like light or darkness or silence between dialogue…all kinds of life experience you can translate easily…well, it’s not easy but you can translate somehow into cinematic experience. It’s up to the audience what kind of message they take…I mean, it’s not a message, what kind of interpretation they take from the experience they have with the film. So I really don’t have a particular message to convey. But I have my own interpretation, which is not the ultimate interpretation to the film, it’s one interpretation and each viewer is entitled to his or her own interpretation.
Tell me more about your own interpretation.
Okay. When I was looking at the cat society I thought it was much simpler. For example, in the human society if somebody outside is coming into the community there are so many obstacles to clear, for example borders or laws. Even if you want to accept somebody there are things you need to deal with. Humans have egos and that kind of thing gets in the way even if you want to make peace with somebody, right? But in the cat society I thought it was much simpler. And I thought my father-in-law’s interpretation of the way cats live together was so inspiring. He told me in the film that his cats are disappearing one by one and he thinks that cats are kind of giving away their spot to younger and weaker cats. The strong ones are yielding their spot to younger and weaker cats. That is his point of view and his interpretation and I don’t really know if it’s true to the cats but I thought it was very interesting, and it kind of echoed the fact that  Mr Hashimoto was almost at the exit of his life, and he was leaving the world, which it made me think about why we die. We see dying as kind of a negative thing but if we don’t die probably this world is so overpopulated with human beings so I think dying is one way of giving away your spot to the next generation, meaning you are coexisting…it is necessary for you to die for you to coexist with the next generation. It made me think about the subject and I thought it was important to make them parallel, the story of the cats and the story of the people in the film.
I think you just answered my next question.
(Kazuhiro laughed.)
With your portrayal of the compassion of the caregivers, were you saying that how a society cares for its most vulnerable members is a measure of the compassion of that society, and that compassion is the basis of a lasting peace?
I think so. It does have a lot to do with it I think (compassion), and also not only people, but animals. I travel a lot and if I go to a city where I see a lot of stray cats on the street and if I witness these cats living peacefully and alive I feel, oh, this is a good city because they’re not being pushed by human people, they’re being allowed to live in their spot. And they are the most vulnerable in a sense. If they are around it means the city has some tolerance, and people there are somewhat allowing the feral beings to live. So it is a major…when you have stray cats in the city it tells me if the city is civilized or…I mean usually if you see lots of stray cats you think the society is not civil, but I think it’s the opposite. And also, people with disabilities and the elderly, if they have their spot, their niche in society it means that the society is cherishing everybody’s needs and so it is almost like…I mean, it is probably the basis for peace. Because the war…you know, it’s like  Mr Hashimoto was talking about, all the individuality is lost…you can get drafted for 1.5 sen, for the price of a postcard you can be drafted and get killed. In order to do a war you need…the society needs to shift that way…I think if the society cherishes everybody’s needs and reasons to live or everybody’s rights or whatever than you cannot really fight any war. It’s impossible, right? It’s impossible, because in order to fight a war with another country you need a lot of people who are like robots, who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the war.
You say you don’t have a message, but this is activist talk.
(Laughs.) It’s just my interpretation. It’s something I discovered while making the film.
Would you say more about the history of Peace cigarettes?
After World War II the Japanese government started selling tobacco and the first brand of cigarettes they sold was Peace. Japanese people were fed up with war. I was kind of thrilled that  Mr Hashimoto had been smoking Peace cigarettes ever since the war because if feels like a metaphor of post-war Japan. It gave the film another layer.

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