In our ongoing 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 next guest is the director and writer Yosuke TAKEUCHI, who wrote and directed The Sower.
Yosuke TAKEUCHI, born in 1978, studied at the Shibaura Institute of Technology and then went to Paris to study painting. He won the Jury Special Award at the exhibition of the Académie de Port-Royal in 2003. In 2006, he directed his first short film Segutsu. The Sower is his first feature length film.
When and how did you first get into filmmaking?
I started making films when I went to The Film School of Tokyo, an evening academy, about ten years ago. I entered that school because I heard that there it was possible to shoot with 16mm film. This way I could shoot my first short film on 16mm.
What were your first film projects?
That first short film was about a painter from long ago, who was isolated from the world by his parents, didn’t know the outside, and was very lonely.
Where did you get the idea for The Sower, and what story would you like it to tell?
When I was in my early twenties, there was a time when I was painting pictures in Paris. At that time, I was profoundly impressed by a painting by Vincent van Gogh, and since then, I find myself drawn to his life. At that time I didn’t think about making films. However, when I started making films, the letters and paintings he left to the world became more and more important to me, and I wanted my first feature film to be about his life. At that very time, the Great East-Japan Earthquake happened in 2011, and the year after, my niece was born with Down’s syndrome. Issues piled up, and this way The Sower was born.
This film is about individuality and handicap, but it’s not necessarily about the correct answer. However, time and place are greatly influenced by a person’s individuality, that anyone has, and the way society and family accept this individuality. The question is, what can we do, what can we think in such a moment. I believe that these are the questions this film poses.
Were there any funny or difficult situations you experienced during the shooting?
This film was not made through funding or investments of any kind. It’s entirely an independent film. Therefore it was made with a very small budget. So we really had to think about what we could do, and what we needed to focus on. The result was to work with a small crew, and I think that’s the reason why all the staff members could share the big idea and spirit of this film and push through until the very end. Team spirit and communication among staff members is something that is missing from recent Japanese movies, but it’s something that we could realize shooting this film.
Also, the sunflowers in this film were all grown by us. We had decided to grow sunflowers in the disaster area, but it turned out to be extremely difficult to grow sunflowers on the devastated sea shore. The reconstruction of the disaster area is not making much progress, but just as we were wrapping up filming, construction works started in the disaster area where the sunflowers were growing. However thanks to the help of local people, the area with the sunflowers remained. Thanks to that, we succeeded in shooting a wonderful scene.
What do you think about the current situation of Japanese cinema?
Current Japanese cinema is a repetition of making many films, showing them for a short time, and then showing the next. I think it’s obvious that as a result the quality of each single film suffers. The reason for this, I believe, is a downward spiral, with more and more film projects having less and less time and money at their disposal.
It’s being said that Japanese cinema is in decline, but that’s not only because of the filmmakers but in recent years also because of the audience. However, it is Japanese filmmakers are the ones who made the audience this way.
Which three Japanese films from the last decade do you think everybody should see?
Like Someone in Love (2012)
Record Future (2011)
Like Father, Like Son (2013, NC 2014)
Do you have an all-time favorite film, and if yes, is there a particular reason why it’s your favorite?
I can’t decide on only one, but I like the works of great directors from all over the world, and of masters of Japanese film such as Mikio NARUSE and Yasujiro OZU. Recently I like the films by director Michael Haneke very much.
Who is the director/filmmaker that influenced you the most?
Similarly, I’ve been influenced by various directors and films. If I really have to name one, it would be the work of Robert Bresson.
Have you ever been to Germany before, and if so, what was your favorite/strangest/funniest experience?
About ten years ago I went on a solo trip to Europe and also came to Germany. I had no money, so I slept in a tent in parks, but I remember that the cities were very clean and pretty. However, I also have a rather unpleasant memory of plain-clothes police officers asking me for my passport about five times. If I get a chance, I’d like to spend some quiet time in the countryside.
Translated from Japanese.
The Sower will premier on Thursday, 25 May, at 17:15 in Naxoshalle. The film is eligible for the Nippon Visions Jury Award and the Nippon Visions Audience Award.