Amir Naderi says the fact that he doesn’t speak any Japanese didn’t deter him from making his film “CUT” entirely in that language. While knowing the process would be somewhat difficult, Naderi felt this wasn’t “a major obstacle.” When one feels that dialogue “is simply another means to carry the story forward,” as Naderi does, then this line of thinking makes all the more sense.
Heavily affected by Japanese cinema throughout his career-he cites such directors as Kurosawa and Kobayashi as influences-Naderi felt he was finally ready to make a film in that country. While almost all of his previous films have been screened at Tribeca, this will be his first time “bringing an import from Japan,” as he puts it and he is excited to see how the festival’s audience responds to the film.
What’s it about?: “CUT the bullshit in cinema today. That’s it.”
Director Naderi says: “Throughout history, society everywhere has always clashed with art. Today, financial power is stronger than ever and it has a dirty hold on art, especially on cinema. In CUT, Shuji’s anger is a reaction from this situation. He fights for what he believes in and his religion is cinema in its purest form. Shuji accepts to be a human punching bag not only to pay back his brother’s debt, but also as part of his reaction to the poor way society treats cinema today. Each punch that Shuji receives is from the people who brought cinema to this low level for the sake of entertainment and profit only. Young audiences are being brainwashed to appreciate the same types of films over and over. Their taste is being dictated by business. Today’s cinema needs a change. Shuji’s actions and this film are a small movement toward that change. Somebody must stand up and shout, and Shuji does this in CUT. For me, Shuji is the last samurai in cinema. A samurai who sacrifices himself for what he believes in most: pure cinema.”
On challenges: “In fact, I must admit that without having made five films in America, I would not have been ready to take on the challenge of making a film in Japan. And now after 20 years making films in a country different from my homeland, Iran, I felt that I was ready to go and make this film in Japan. I knew that it would not be easy to fully interpret the Japanese culture as a foreigner, but I loved the challenge and experience, just like when I made my films in America.
“When I decided to actually go forward and make CUT, I had to remind myself that I was going to make a “Japanese” film. I travelled there a few times. I knew that the process of making a film in Japan wasn’t going to happen all of a sudden, despite my existing knowledge and research on Japanese cinema. At the same time, I felt Japan was closer culturally to my native Iran than the multi-cultured America. Each state of America can be like a different country. Making a film in New York is quite different from making a film in Las Vegas. Japan, however, has one strong root in its history, art, cinema, literature. And the untouchable mystery of Japan makes this country a unique one. Japan is like a modern poem for me.”
On making a film in language you don’t speak: “I don’t speak Japanese at all, but I didn’t see that as a major obstacle. The language of the dialogues doesn’t really matter to me. As much as I admire the effective dialogues in other filmmakers’ works, I myself am not a man of dialogues. For me, dialogue is simply another means to carry the story forward. In general I’m much more inspired by shooting scenes without dialogue. Sequences without dialogue are especially my own world. Silence is also very much part of my world. My passion for filmmaking is connected to working with images, movements, sound, editing, and silence. I think in CUT these elements are also among the main characters.
“With the help of interpreters on the set, I was able to communicate with the actors and crew. Most everyone could understand my English, but they were hesitant to speak English because of their Japanese shyness. When working with actors and crew, my very first condition is that they see my previous films. They need to take a step into my world of filmmaking. I put myself and my thoughts into them. I believe that the focus must be on the mood and atmosphere that is to be created on the set. Everything starts from mutual trust that doesn’t come through words and promises, but only occurs after shooting two or three scenes. It happens after they experience what I want to say and how I say it. Nobody, not even myself, knows when this magic happens. There is always a moment on a shoot when everybody reaches common ground and from then on, all the doors open. Especially on CUT, this happened. After that we didn’t need to use many words because the feeling between us spoke for itself. With one look or one gesture or even with silence, we were able to communicate.”
Any specific inspirations when making the film?: “Japanese cinema has significantly affected my own work. For example, in my film THE RUNNER, all the action, editing, sound work, and the last scene of the film (which lasts 12 minutes and has no dialogue, where the children go for the ice and hold it and run until it melts in front of the fire) have been influenced by SEVEN SAMURAI’s last scene. The idea of my film WATER, WIND, DUST was born from Kaneto Shindo’s NAKED ISLAND. My film WAITING came from Masaki Kobayashi’s KWAIDAN and Kon Ichikawa’s BURMESE HARP. The complicated camera movements and long takes which I have always had in my films are inspired by Kenji Mizoguchi. Working with children in the city and the color of the city comes from Nagisa Oshima. Hiroshi Shimizu is the godfather to us all for working with kids. And I have a special respect for the character and style of Ozu, especially for the way he used silence.”
Any future projects?: “I would like to eventually go back to Japan and make another film with Hidetoshi Nishijima, two in fact. I am also considering making a film in Korea. But my next film will probably be shot in America. In the deserts of New Mexico and Nevada. I have missed the sound of the desert winds. For more than 10 years I have dreamt about this project called MOON. It’s a whole other universe, a place with its own culture. The challenge of making that film will be yet another story for me. What I can say is that whatever I end up making, it will retain its own originality. Just wait and see.”
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.