Guest in Focus: Kaori ODA

Kaori ODA, director of TS’ONOT / CENOTE, was born in Osaka in 1987. From 2013, she lived in Sarajevo for three years, studying film under Béla Tarr. Her first two feature-length documentaries, ARAGANE (2015) and TOWARD A COMMON TENDERNESS (2017), were shown at numerous international film festivals. In 2020, she was the first recipient of the newly established Nagisa Oshima Award for outstanding young filmmakers. We are very glad she took the time to answer our questions for our Guest in Focus series.


When and how did you first get into filmmaking?

From around 2009 to 2011 I was studying at a small liberal arts university in the United States. I took a class in which we had the opportunity to use the Bolex camera. This was my first encounter with camera and movies. Back at my parents’ home during  summer vacation, I made a self-documentary style movie reenacting the experience of confessing to my family that I belong to a sexual minority. My mentor’s advice to me was to try and document my biggest inner conflict, namely the things I could not escape that were in my mind. I think the sadness and anger after coming out became the motivation to shoot this movie. It was a striking first filmmaking experience. I’m still continuously learning about the possibilities and the violent nature of the camera – the camera being essential in helping me document my fundamental personal experiences.

Where did you get the idea for your latest film?

A friend who studied film with me in Sarajevo asked me what movie I would make next after ARAGANE (my previous movie, shot in a coal mine). I answered: “Next time, I want to film water. I want to shoot light and darkness inside water”. She immediately invited me to visit her home country Mexico. After returning from Sarajevo, she investigated the cenotes for me and I eventually went there. As I visited dozens of cenotes, I talked to people with Maya ancestry who live in the surrounding areas. I began to wonder if I could make a film about our memory based on the sacred places called cenotes, and the stories and myths told there.


What was the biggest challenge while making your latest film?

Underwater shooting. I cannot swim without a life jacket or a diving tank. The problem was that I wanted to shoot water scenes although I am not really good at swimming. Besides, since the conversations were  translated from Mayan to Spanish to English, it took quite a long time and that also made us a little tired. What I basically got to hear was a summary of what was actually said. I’m very grateful to the assistants who helped me by interpreting so many hours for the interviews.


映画作りを始めたのはいつ頃ですか? どのようなきっかけでしたか?



サラエボで映画をともに学んでいた友人から、『鉱 ARAGANE』(前作/炭鉱を撮影)の次は何を撮るの?と尋ねられました。「次は水の撮影がしたい。水の中の光や暗闇を撮ってみたい」と言うと、彼女の母国であるメキシコにおいでよと軽く誘ってくれました。サラエボから帰国後、彼女がセノーテのことを調べてくれ、現地に赴くことになります。何十というセノーテを巡っていく中で、周辺に暮らすマヤの血をひく方々のお話を伺いました。セノーテという神聖な場所と、そこで語られる物語や神話をもとに、我々の記憶についての映画が制作できないかなと思いはじめました。



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