EDITORS NOTE: For the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, indieWIRE will be publishing interviews with filmmakers in the Discovery section of the festival, which TIFF describes as a showcase for new and emerging filmmakers from contemporary international cinema.
Hajime Kadoi‘s “Vacation” is having its International Premiere in the Discovery section of the Toronto International Film Festival. The film follows Hirai, a middle-aged prison guard, who follows an alienated work routine attending to Kaneda, a death row inmate. When Kaneda’s execution is ordered, Hirai has an opportunity for a vacation. But as TIFF describes, “there is a price to pay for this well-deserved break, as Hirai must assist Kaneda during his final moments.” indieWIRE talked to Kadoi about the film and its screening in Toronto.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking and did that interest evolve while making your film?
My first encounter with filmmaking was at my high-school annual school festival in Japan. I was not a director at that time, but participated as a staff member and I found myself attracted to creating and collaborating with others in the filmmaking course. I started to direct films in college as a member of the Seijo University Film Club. While learning the art of filmmaking, I suppose that I have been always fascinated with how “ordinary people” change themselves through interaction with others through everyday actions. It is fascinating to see how a person’s destiny is shaped by making these decisions during the course of their lives.
Please discuss how the idea for your film came about…
When I create a film, I usually focus on a theme from which I can illuminate psychological aspects of “ordinary people”. With regard to Kyuka (Vacation), initially, I was handed the original novel, which is written by Yoshimura Akira, by my producer. As I read it, I was inspired by this novel, and attracted to its theme which draws attention to a moment where ordinariness and punishment lie adjunct to each other. I thought that this would give me an opportunity to illuminate the actual reality of “ordinariness”, and its other side.
Please elaborate on your approach to making the film, including your influences as well as your overall goals for the project.
The central theme of this film is the death penalty, which is often socially as well as politically controversial in Japan. I created this film based on the intensive and deliberate research through interviews and reading materials. However, I want to mention that creating a political intervention concerning the death penalty is not an overall goal for this film. Rather, what I wanted to focus on was the lives of “ordinary people”. While most of characters in this film are situated in an unordinary environment, they are just like each one of us, and are seeking ordinary happiness. As we all may know well, there is no easygoing job or life. In other words, there might be no such thing as ordinary. I thought that describing the work and life of a prison officer would elaborate upon the hardship of our lives. In order to elaborate such an aspect, I asked the actors to be released from stereotypical images and to act with ordinary sentiments. I think this type of approach enables the audience to project themselves into the various roles while watching this film.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
It is always tough to create a film with a limited amount of time and budget, and this film was no exception. In fact, I shot this film in two weeks and only had one month for its post-production period. I would not have been able to finish without the support of excellent performers and staff.
What is your next project?
Currently, I do not have a clear plan for my next project, but I would like to try to create a film with more entertaining elements.
What are your goals for the Toronto International Film Festival?
I am very excited that my film is able to reach to a wider audience. I believe that the film should be primarily created for the audience. I am very interested to see audiences outside of Japan react to this film, and I feel honored to have such opportunity. It goes without saying that this opportunity enables my work to be distributed to audiences all over the world, and that is very satisfying.
Read all of indieWIRE’s Toronto International Film Festival coverage in our special Toronto ’08 section.]