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An Exclusive Interview
with Hirokazu Kore-eda
2009 is a busy year for Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda. After winning the Best Director Award
at the Asian Film Award ceremony in early April, Kore-eda has been traveling again to promote his films.
Before he headed to Cannes to attend the premiere of his latest film Air Doll, he spent a few
days in San Francisco as a guest of the international film festival, sharing his thoughts on his
award winning film Still Walking. We're glad to have the opportunity to sit down with the busy
director and have a nice conversation. In this concise yet exciting interview, the topic ranges from
Still Walking to his views on two elements that always revolve around his films: family and
Special thanks to Larsen Associates for making this interview possible.
Please enjoy the interview!
* The interview was originally conducted in English and Japanese with interepetation.
Who is Hirokazu Kore-eda?
Hirokazu Kore-eda, film director, writer and editor, was born in Tokyo, 1962. After graduating from the Literature
Department at Waseda University, Kore-eda joined TV Man Union, a large, independent television production company, where
he has directed many prize-winning documentaries.
His first feature film, Maborosi, won the Ozella Doro at the Venice Film Festival in 1995. His second feature, After Life
(1999), was distributed in over 30 countries and was extraordinarily successful worldwide as an independent film in Japan. The film
is currently being adapted into an American film through 20th Century Fox. His third film, Distance was presented in competition
at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. His fourth feature Nobody Knows, won the Best Actor award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival
and was highly acclaimed worldwide. In 2006, Kore-eda wrote and directed Hana, his first period film, exploring the world of
swordsmen and revenge in Edo period.
Kore-eda's family drama Still Walking in 2008 gained him a Best Director award at the 2009 Asian
Film Award Ceremony, and it has been screening at film festivals around the world. In 2009, his
latest film Air Doll is going to premiere at Cannes Film Festival.
Cinespot: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. Let's begin with your latest film
Still Walking. This is a family drama and it contains a lot of daily life dialogues from an ordinary
family. Was all the dialogues scripted before filming? Or was there any improvisation done by the actors?
Kore-eda: The dialogues were pretty much 100% written by me.
Cinespot: The film contains a lot of long takes, with many dialogues. How did you rehearse with your actors?
Kore-eda: I wrote the script thoroughly, but then we did readings with the actors, and then I rewrote the script to
match the actors' voice and the kind of words they normally would use. And then once we had had the house (the main set), I looked
at what kind of distance the dialogues would travel, whether it is something being set in the garden, or heard in the kitchen. We needed
to be totally aware of the space involved and set people into that space, then the original words would be realized in the
space. We made sure it would give more reality and fit with the movement of the people and the space. Therefore, in terms of the rehearsal,
we did a lot of works before shooting the film.
One example of something not in the original script was the the scene when Hiroshi Abe goes to the bathroom to cool the water melon.
We realized that we could actually hear what was being talked about in the living room in the back, I didn't think that was the case
beforehand. So we added in some dialogues at that point, during the shooting process. When it's subtitled, it didn't seem quite
different, but I was very much aware of the space and the distance that the dialogues had to inhabit and carry.
Cinespot: There are quite some reviews relating this film to Ozu's Tokyo Story. Do you see such connection?
Kore-eda: For myself, I did not make this film being aware of Ozu or his films. This is a very personal film for me and I did
it as the way I thought about my mother and my relationship with my parents. Of course once it's finished and I looked at it, I understand
that people might see some of the motifs and the human relationships being quite a bit similar to the ones that appear in Ozu's films. So
I don't dislike the comparison. However, I think if my parents were to appear in a film, it would be more like an Mikio Naruse's films.
In my mind, the people who appear in Ozu's films are very upright, they have a kind of calmness in the way they approach life, whereas
the people in Naruse's films are sly, some of them are no good, and they don't really mature in the film at all. So I think if my
parents were to appear in a movie, they would fit more in a Naruse's style of movie than in Ozu's movie (laugh).
In part II of the interview, director Kore-eda talks about two elements that are very important to his films: family and documentary.
Please click here to go to Part II!