In our new Guest in Focus Series, we ask a few questions of several of our visiting filmmakers about their careers, influences, films, and what they think about coming to Germany. Our first guest is the director Yujiro HARUMOTO, director of Going the Distance.
Yujiro HARUMOTO, born in Kobe in 1978, graduated from Nihon University College of Art. He worked as an assistant director for period films and TV series at Shochiku Kyoto Studios and then became a freelancing assistant director for many other film and TV productions. Going the Distance is his feature length debut and has received two awards at the 2017 Festival International of the Cinémas d’Asie de Vesoul.
When and how did you first get into filmmaking?
I started filmmaking in 2000. I entered my university to study animation. But at the university, we could learn everything about filmmaking, and I got addicted to the charm of live-action movies.
What were your first film projects?
My first movie was a short story that was about 15 minutes long. The story was: “A young man living a busy life in Tokyo rethinks the meaning of life after the death of his best friend in his hometown.”
Where did you get the idea for Going the Distance, and what story would you like it to tell?
Shinichiro Matsuura, who plays the protagonist Asahi, told me about a fraud case that happened to him in real life. The part which corresponds to Asahi, Hiroto and Kita is mostly based on that true story. The relationship between Asahi and Kaori is based on my own experience. In this movie, each character has a “family” to protect. In addition to that, each family has a different appearance. However, when talking about “family” in Japan, we tend to adhere to the concept of a “traditional household.” Through the behavior of the characters who care for their “families,” this story seeks a new type of “family” and the meaning of the word.
Were there any funny or difficult situations you experienced during the shooting?
Since it was so exhausting every day during the shooting, I couldn’t afford to find it funny. There was always some kind of trouble every day. It may be perceived as interesting or funny in a sense. We also only had a limited staff, so everyone had several tasks, which was challenging. Also, since we shot a couple of scenes each day, I think that made it quite hard for the actors to remember the lines and maintain the flow of emotions.
What do you think about the current situation of Japanese cinema?
Since major studios that are taking over Japanese film distribution continue to produce commercial films targeting only Japan, together with entertainment productions based on original works, it lowers the quality of Japanese movies and the level of the Japanese audience as well. Creatively-written works that offer up a strong message are difficult to make since they are not commercially profitable. It is necessary to recognize the cultural importance of the movie in Japan and take measures to protect works with high cultural and artistic significance, e.g. with grants.
Which three Japanese films from the last decade do you think everybody should see?
If I had to name the five best, then; All Around Us (ぐるりのこと, Gururi no koto), Dear Doctor (ディア・ドクター, Dia dokutâ), Tamako in Moratorium (もらとりあむタマ子, Moratoriamu Tamako), Potechi (ポテチ, Potechi), and In the Hero (イン・ザ・ヒーロー, In za hiro).
Do you have an all-time favorite film, and if yes, is there a particular reason why it’s your favorite?
Three Colours: Blue (French: Trois couleurs: bleu) by Krzysztof Kieslowski.
The protagonist is a composer and this makes the use of music a necessity. The “visuals”, “music”, and “story” are very much in harmony with each other. In addition, the movie tells the story about losing and reproducing the protagonist’s love in about 100 minutes without boring the audience.
My favorite German movie is Christian Petzold’s “Barbara,” which I just recently saw!
Who is the director/filmmaker that influenced you most?
It is very difficult to choose one person…Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, and Yasuzo MASUMURA.
Have you ever been to Germany before, and if so, what was your favorite/strangest/funniest experience?
This is my first time visiting Germany! I’m so excited!
Translated from Japanese.
Going the Distance will premiere on Friday, 26 May, at 19:30 in Naxoshalle. Both the director and one of the film’s lead actors will be present. The film is eligible for the Nippon Visions Jury Award Film and the Nippon Visions Audience Award.