Interview with Japanese Movie Director: Shinobu Yaguchi
On February 28, 2017, the Japanese Culture Center was privileged to interview yet another Japanese movie director. Mr. Shinobu Yaguchi flew in to debut his new movie, “Survival Family” at the AMC River East 21 movie theater the following night. He specializes in feel-good “zero to hero” films, where a group of people take up an unlikely activity, face many obstacles, but finally succeed. His film Waterboys was particularly successful and led to a TV series which entered its third season in 2005. He was awarded Best Screenplay at the 2005 Yokohama Film Festival for his film Swing Girls. In his newest movie, Survival Family, an unexplained event causes all the electrical devices in Tokyo to stop working. To try to escape the chaos, a father decides to take his family across country in search for electricity.
First off, thank you for coming to Chicago. Is this your first time to this city?
This is actually my second time. I don’t really remember my first time though, since I was only here for business and was not able to do anything else.
That is too bad, I hope you will have some time do some sightseeing on this trip.
I was. We drove around all day yesterday.
I am glad that you were able to have some time off! Was there anything that you really enjoyed doing?
We did a few things. I was especially excited to drive on Lower Wacker like they did in the Blue’s Brothers.
I really enjoyed how in your movie, you focused on technology and its effects on society. What made you select this theme?
I really dislike technology. I think it makes everyone lazy and unnecessarily content. I especially dislike technology in how it allows us to think that we know everything but, I believe, it would be better to stay uninformed on some topics.
What do you mean?
Currently we have social media and the News at our fingertips. Before the Internet, if we wanted to know more about a specific topic or a person, we had to go out and actively search for that information. Now, we are constantly surrounded with countless amounts of trivial information that distracts us from the topics we truly desire to know. I feel this keeps a person from truly being driven by curiosity.
I heard that you personally do not own a smartphone. Is that true?
Yes, that is true.
Have you ever felt out-of-touch because of this?
I have never needed one before. I do not need one now.
The main characters in the movie were members of a family. What effects do you think technology has on these relations?
I think families suffer the most negative effects from technology. I can agree that technology can bring family members together when they are far away from each other. However, when the members are physically together, it seems as if technology drives them apart. I see families at restaurants or simply at parks and no one is talking with each other, all they do is spend all their time on their smartphones. In that sense, technology severs familial ties.
Do you think these effects are only in Japan or do you think it is a worldwide situation?
With the Internet, it is worldwide. I even notice in American movies and television shows, that families are represented in the same way they are in my movie. As technology advances, the situation will only get worse. That is why in my movie, I wanted to explore a possible alternative. I view it as a way to purge ourselves from the negative effects that technology has on our relationships and return to a more simple and intimate life.
How do you think your movie and themes will be received by Western audiences?
Hopefully it will be received as it was in Japan. I think despite which part of the world you come from, anyone can relate to the effects technology has on our world. Whether you think they are positive or negative, you cannot deny that there are effects.
You have been a movie director since the 1990’s. How do you think technology has influenced the movie industry?
There has been a huge influence! Especially when it comes to CGI. In my opinion, CGI has taken away the magic in filmmaking. Before the director and cinematographer had to work together to get their vision across to the audience. Now, they can just artificially create it using a computer. Additionally, the audience has gotten so used to CGI in movies, that they no longer are amazed. They are so used to seeing the impossible that the possible no longer impresses. Even if a seemingly “impossible” scene was shot without using CGI, the audience would assume that CGI was used. This truly discredits the skill of the cinematographer and the director.
With that being said, when shooting your movies, do you ever use CGI or do you try to create movies as they did before computers?
I definitely try to stay away from CGI. I want the audience to know that all the extraordinary scenes in my movie are real.
Thank you for allowing me to sit down and discuss your movie with you. Before I leave, if you could directly say one thing to the individuals who watch your movie, what would it be?
Please turn all the switches off.
Through my interview with director Shinobu Yaguchi, it is evident that he is adamant about making everyone aware of how technology can influence our lives. In addition to interviewing him, I was also able to watch his North American debut with him in the theater. Despite the heavy anti-technology message of Survival Family, I found it ironic that as soon as the lights turned back on, and the movie ended, everyone within my view took out their phones and returned to their technology.