Guest in Focus: Naomi MIZOGUCHI

Naomi MIZOGUCHI, born in Hyogo Prefecture, worked at a film production company in Japan before becoming a freelance filmmaker in 1995 and moving to New York in 2004 to study community media. In 2008, she co-established the non-profit-organization Cineminga, shooting a number of films with the active cooperation of indigenous people in South America and Asia. She then founded her own film production company GARA FILMS in 2014. AINU – INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF JAPAN (2019 / NC ’20) is her first feature-length documentary. We are very glad she took the time to answer our questions for our Guest in Focus series.


Where did you get the idea for your latest film?

While teaching the indigenous peoples of South America and Nepal about filmmaking, I realized I didn’t know anything about the Ainu, the indigenous people of my own home country. So in 2008, I first visited the town of Biratori, where I shot this film, to learn about them. While observing an Ainu language class, one of the Ainu seniors told me “If you want to keep learning about Ainu and are having difficulties with money, you are welcome to stay at my place.” I accepted his kind offer and have been visiting the town ever since.

In 2015, when I had a chat with a curator at the Nibutani Ainu Cultural Museum in Biratori, he told me “I really want to capture the life story of elders who have made their efforts to preserve Ainu culture as well as cultural events in the town. But I don’t know how to do that.” That was the moment I decided to create this documentary. I gave a proposal to the museum that I will take my responsibility to create a film by myself but I want the museum to be the collaborator. It means I will be the director. The museum supervises the Ainu culture and the language, plus to be a mediator with local people. I also offered to donate all the raw footage and the final film and I will try to screen the film inside and outside of Japan.

What was the biggest challenge while making your latest film?

The biggest challenge was that I was a crew of one even though sometimes I asked the museum for physical help. Not only did I film it myself, I had to direct it myself and carry all the equipment. There were two reasons why I did this. First and foremost, since I was sharing time with the elders at their homes, language classes, Ainu rituals and other occasions for many years, I was able to establish a trust and rapport with the elders before I started filming. So, having another crewmember around would’ve created an awkward and uncomfortable situation for them and it would’ve showed on camera. I didn’t want that. The second reason was simple: I wanted to save money, especially with airfares between the US and Japan being so expensive.

NC20_docs_ainu indigenous people of japan_03

What are some challenges women especially are faced with in the world of Japanese filmmaking?

When I had worked in Japan in the 1990s, the majority of the staff were men and women were very rare in production except in the makeup/hair and costume departments. Nowadays, you see more and more women as directors or cinematographers, not only in Japan but all over the world.

I think the biggest challenge as a woman at work – it’s not just the filmmaking industry – is the time when women face a turning point, such as having children. Women need to decide and change their way of life. Another problem is that there are women who experience sexual harassment.

On the other hand, I heard from my clients and bosses that women have a tendency to work more meticulously and responsibly than men – though, I think this is not always the case. Once, a man told me that being a woman is an advantage because of our adaptable manners and kind attitude. In fact, I have gotten job offers because I am a woman. But my hope is gender equality will be the rule in our society and not the exception.

AINU – INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF JAPAN
Japan 2019, 80 min
Watch the film HERE
 from June 9 to 14, 2020
at the 20th Nippon Connection Film Festival
Check out the trailer!


新作のアイディアはどこで得たものですか。 

 南米やネパールの先住民族と協働でビデオ制作をしていた時、母国の先住民族の事を学びたくなり、2008年に平取町を初めて訪れました。アイヌ語教室で出会ったおじいさんから「アイヌの事を学びたいけど、お金がないならホームステイしていいから、またおいで」と声をかけられ、何度も通うようになりました。

  2015年、二風谷アイヌ文化博物館で古老達と今の文化伝承活動を記録したいが、どうしたら良いかわからないという話を聞き、このドキュメンタリー制作を決意しました。私が監督で、博物館にはアイヌ語や文化の監修、地元との橋渡し役等をお願いしました。完成作品と全素材は博物館に寄付し、私は国内外での上映活動をする事も最初に提案しました。

今回の映画制作・撮影中での一番大きいなチャレンジは何でしたか?

博物館の方にも多少は手伝って頂きましたが、撮影から編集まで、基本全て一人で担った事が最も大変でした。特に撮影の時は、機材もあるので、体力的にも精神的にも大変でした。撮影クルーを組まなかったのには2つ理由があります。1番の理由は、古老達とはホームステイや夕食、地域の集まり等で長い時間をかけて親しくなり、カメラを持つ前に人間関係が築けていたので、新しいスタッフとカメラが入る事で、彼らのしゃべり方が変わったり、私との距離感を変えたくなかった事です。2番目の理由は簡単ですが、全て自費で作ったので日米の往復や諸所の予算を抑えたかった為です。

日本の映画界で特に女性が直面しているチャレンジは何でしょうか?

私が日本で仕事をしていた90年代は、制作スタッフの殆どは男性で、女性はメイクや衣装部以外、殆どいませんでした。昨今は、監督やカメラマンとして活躍している女性は世界に沢山います。

  女性としてのチャレンジは、映画制作に限りませんが、結婚や出産等、人生の転機における対応や決断だと思います。また、セクハラで苦労する女性が存在しているのも問題です。

  一方で、個人的な経験ですが、女性の方が仕事をきっちりするという評価や、女性ならではの柔軟な応対が制作現場でプラスに作用すると言われたり、その理由で仕事を頂いた事もあります。女性に限らず様々なジェンダーを受け入れる世の中が普通になって欲しいです。

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