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Interview with Aya HANABUSA, the director of "HOURINOSHIMA" (page 2/2)
Written by Mizuki TANAKA   
Published: May 01 2011

- What inspired you to make this film?

Hanabusa: Well, there were two opportunities. As I have already mentioned, one was the photo album which I had seen. And another was my change of heart. After leaving Polepoletimes, I was engaged in a job as an office worker for a while. While I was working at Motohashi’s office, I was given opportunities to have various work experiences, including editing photo books, organizing screenings, and working as a producer in “NAMIE TO UTAEBA” (2006), which was the third movie directed by Motohashi. And through these jobs, I became exhausted. This was due to the fact that documentary films are always made by being involved in people and their lives. This imposes film makers a grave responsibility. In addition, I felt that I was not fit for working in a film industry. So, I wished to look for a thing which I really want to do. I decided to leave Polepoletimes and have a completely different job. I took a job as a temporary staff of a major foreign-affiliated IT company and worked from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day. I was sitting in front of PC during working hours and communicating colleagues who even sit next to me by e-mail. (laugh) And as working in such a way, I came to really wish to get involved with others.

At the same time, I noticed that commitment with others gave us both suffering and joy. In other words, I realized that involvement with other people gave me opportunities to feel pleasure, joyous and moved, although it was often accompanied by botheration. Then, I also noticed that picture expression was one of valuable techniques to depict human “relations” between photographers and subjects.

- Does that mean there are relations between film makers and characters in movies?

Hanabusa: Yes, it does. In addition to Motohashi’s “Alexey and IZUMI”, I was also extremely affected by Shinsuke Ogawa’s “MANZANBENIGAKI” (*3), which I saw at approximately the same time as I watched “Alexey and IZUMI”. In “MANZANBENIGAKI”, there is a long scene in which persimmons are dried in the sun in Kaminoyama City, Yamagata Prefecture. Even in such a simple scene, we can view various descriptions which were taken by cameras at perfect timings. When I saw this scene, I realized that these descriptions were not shot by chance. They were successfully taken by the director who was closely connected with the village people and the land. He must have shot this scene by using cameras from perfect angles at perfect positions and timings. When I realized this, I rediscovered the greatness of picture expression. That was the first moment I wished to make a film. And while seeing the credits of the film, I already believed that I would visit Iwaishima if I had a chance to film a movie. Although I had visited Iwaishima only once as long as five years ago, I was firmly convinced that in Iwaishima there were something/someone which/who deserved to be shot. That was when I decided to make this film. Immediately after that, I asked Motohashi about my plan to make a documentary film which was set in Iwaishima. He agreed with my project.

- In this movie, there are various scenes which would not have been able to be taken if you were not closely involved in lives of the island’s residents.
For instance, in a scene in which old men and women are gathering at night for having tea, someone tells that he/she will die tomorrow while expecting his/her life expectancy. On the other hand, other one talks about his ancestors and grandchildren. For me, it was impressive that they took a long-term view of time.

Copyright © www.hourinoshima.com
Courtesy of PolePole Higashi-nakano

Hanabusa: I agree with that. In fact, I noticed the point you have indicated while editing this film, but all the island’s residents whom I interviewed told me about people who do not exist in this world. They talked about not only the deceased, such as their partners, fathers and ancestors, but also future generations, including their children, grandchildren and unborn babies. This was common among all the interviewees. In other words, they told me about life which they could not see on the earth. This means that they believed life of the deceased and that of unborn children connected together and formed the flow of life, and our life existed in the course of this flow. I felt that the residents were having their daily lives while keeping such sense in their minds.

Even now, we are frustrated at the accident in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. It will be difficult for us to grasp the real seriousness of risks and influences of nuclear energy plants, if we are lack in two types of imagination, namely powers to imagine time and those to picture invisible things. We are not sure if radioactive contamination from nuclear power stations will have an impact on our bodies ten or twenty years later, or if it will affect our children’s or next generation’s lives. Also, radiation is invisible, odorless, tasteless and harmless. In modern society, it is the most difficult thing for us to concern something from a long-term perspective and imagine unseen things. Problems regarding nuclear energy plants seem to hit on this point. In fact, we are living while making every minute or second count, but it will be difficult for us to know whether we can rely on nuclear power stations, if we have no sense of imagining impacts which will be given on us thousands of years later. Therefore, it seems to be really remarkable that Iwaishima residents were casually talking about the deceased and unborn children.

- This film made me realize new ways of living which I have never heard of and my way of living. In the movie, there is a scene of Shinto ritual which has been held in Iwaishima for many years.

Hanabusa: The first scene I shot for this movie was the scene of preparing the ritual. I heard this festival was held every four years. Therefore, I felt I could not let this opportunity pass me by. The ritual represents a story that a ship was wrecked on the way from Iwashimizu-hachiman, Kyoto Prefecture, to Ohita Prefecture about one thousand years ago and agricultural culture which was transmitted to Iwaishima by the rescued people has developed the island.

I felt that the one thousand years for which the ritual has been held seemed to symbolize the history of Iwaishima. However, the ritual had been interrupted for twelve years because of problems regarding nuclear power plants. I heard that it was really a hard work for the island’s residents to restart the festival, since they did not have many documents in which past rituals were recorded. For the residents, the ritual is a kind of symbol of their roots. Therefore, I shot it as part of important scenes in this film.

It was impressive and symbolic that in the ritual the God was said to come across the sea. Iwaishima residents’ lives showed that all the things, such as information, goods and the God, which supported their lives, arrived from overseas. For the residents, the sea means a place to live, traffic network and a sacred place. Actually, I have never lived by sea, since I was born and raised in Tokyo, but, during my stay in Iwaishima, I came to realize that the sea is a kind of thing which does not separate the island and opposite shore but connects them.

- What kind of reaction did you get from Iwaishima residents when this film was screened in the island?

Hanabusa: I showed this movie to the residents immediately after it was completed. They told me that they had really enjoyed the film. Actually, the movie drew standing-room-only crowds.

At a theater, I saw most viewers were staring intently at the screen, while bursting out laughing or making various kinds of comment. It was especially impressive for me that all the viewers in a theater seemed to be crying when viewing a scene in which Noriko Hashimoto, whose husband’s parents had been diligently involved in antinuclear power activities, said “(When I join an antinuclear energy movement,) I feel as if my departed mother-in-law gives me a supportive push”. While viewing this scene, all the viewers seemed to remember a number of residents who had died without fulfilling their life ambition (antinuclear power movements). And in the later part of the film, there was a scene in which Emiko Masamoto, who was a fisherman’s wife, said “People’s mind is common between that of opponents and advocates,” “(Before problems regarding establishing nuclear power plant occurred,) they have been having relationships like those between brothers. Therefore, antinuclear problems can be said to damage our minds completely”. I saw most viewers were nodding at this scene. Still now, there is a deep division between advocates and opponents. However, it is a fact that they are sharing one feeling that “it is painful to continue nuclear -power-related movements”. While screening the movie, I felt there was a moment that thirty years of history of Iwaishima residents seemed to be condensed and appear in front of the screen. It was really a significant moment.

After the screening, many viewers said, “Aya, Bravo!”, and shaked hands with me. I was greatly pleased.

- Was there any change within you after making the film?

Hanabusa: Not this film but opportunities to meet Iwaishima residents made me change.

We planned to screen this film in Yamanashi Prefecture for three days from March 11, the very day of the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake. Of course, it was impossible to screen the movie due to electrical power failure on the day of the earthquake, but we arrived Yamanashi by spending over ten hours by car from Tokyo and the next day we managed to screen it since the local people told us, “We should show this film only now because of these circumstances”. When we were holding a screening of this film, the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station No.1 was being covered on TV. I was sitting in front of the TV outside the screening venue to hear a press conference held by Prime Minister Kan. There seemed to be no message in his speech. Then I realized that all the acts which Japanese people have been piling for many years had completely collapsed. We have been thinking that it couldn’t be helped to maintain nuclear power plants though they have been said to adversely affect us. I could not help realizing that this collapse was symbolized by Kan’s press conference and his glassy tone.

When I was seeing this film at the screening after hearing the press conference covered on TV, the island’s residents who were appeared on a screen made me realize that their daily lives, beautiful scenery of Iwaishima and their proud inner spirit have been preserved since they have never relinquished the most important thing for them and they have not left it to others even when their wishes could not be granted. After seeing Prime Minister Kan’s attitude at the press conference, I got an intense impression from Iwaishima residents’ way of life.

I learnt from the residents how important it is to recognize what is the most important thing for us and keep it in our own hands. Unfortunately, at present I do not have a chance to visit Iwaishima, but I would like to keep in mind that my words and deeds are always based on something important for us and not to spoil myself but to live in such a way that I would not be ashamed to show my living to Iwaishima residents. I sincerely hope that my actions which I keep trying to fulfill as the most important thing for us will become something useful for Iwaishima in the future.

- Polepole Higashinakano, April 15, 2011

(Translation by Nozomi Nakayama)


“MANZANBENIGAKI”【The first shooting term】1984, director:Shinichi Ogawa【The second shooting term】1999, director:Xiao-Lian Peng【Finishing】Organized and edited by Xiao-Lian Peng This is a documentary film which was completed in 2001 by Xiao-Lian Peng. After Shinichi Ogawa died in 1992, Xiao-Lian Peng made this movie by combining unedited films and additionally-shot films.

Reffered film:

"HOURINOSHIMA" directed by Aya HANABUSA, screeed April 23 - May 6, 2011 at PolePole Higashi-nakano (http://www.mmjp.or.jp/pole2/)

Last Updated on October 13 2015

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