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December 15, 2019 Sunday 10:31:18 PM IST

New Generation Japanese Film Makers Have to Trod the Middle Path: Joe Odagiri

Joe Odagiri with the Suwarna Chakoram Award at IFFK 2019 with Bina Paul

They Say Nothing Stays the Same, a Japanese film directed by Joe Odagiri won the Golden Crow Pheasant (Suwarna Chakoram) award  at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK 2019) held from December 6 to 13. In an interview to Rajeev Joseph Palakkacherry, he says that discontent among Japanese people is increasing day by day and reflected in rising suicide rates. Excerpts -

What do you have to say about the new generation film directors of Japan?
In Japan there are two types of film makers. One group that makes films on a small budget and the other is big budget film makers. There is no other category in between them, it is a fact.  Therefore, the new generation film makers have to be in the middle of these two groups.

What is the politics behind your first film They Say Nothing Stays the Same?
I had an opportunity to visit Cuba. I could understand the working of Communist party. I tried to understand the problems of people who were being crushed under financial crisis. But they are all happy. But in Japan the situation is different. In all ways, Japan is a much better place. But suicide rate is increasing day by day. People are not satisfied. Material satisfaction cannot give everything. This is what Japan teaches me. This is the politics that I conveyed in my film.

Is independent cinema getting importance in Japanese Film festivals?
Tokyo Film Festival is an important event in Japan. But importance is given to commercial cinema and only a few art films are encouraged which is quite discouraging for film makers like me.

What were you trying to tell through They Say Nothing Stays the Same?
The old generation in India and Japan are on the way out. The traditions handed over by them are not understood or followed by the new generation. We cannot compel anyone to do that. In the same way, we can view development. We quickly forget old practices and traditions. When development comes, people also start changing their attitudes.

What do you have to say about Japanese film goers?
We cannot see Japanese film goers in isolation, the changes generally seen across the world are seen in Japan too. People are watching more TV and seeing more commercial films. There are lot of artistes who make huge money in Japan. Therefore, those who think of making money find commercial films as a route to prosperity.

What do you have to say about the cinematography of your film?
Christopher Doyle handled the lens and we could establish a spiritual relationship. What I imagined was visualised exactly by him. I could intervene and give suggestions in some areas. The village and ferry man were captured the way I visualised in my mind by Christopher.

About the film
They Say Nothing Stays the Same (Arsu sendo no hanashi) is the directorial debut of Joe Odagiri, leading actor and muscician. It tells the story of changes taking place in a rural village in Japan through the eyes of an old ferryman Toichi played by veteran actor Akira Emoto. A bridge being constructed across the river may make him redundant. Somebody thinks of destroying the bridge and strange things begin to happen. An ordinary girl appears, an entire family is killed. Change is inevitable even if they may not be for the good of all.