Tomoaki Yanai

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Hi, first of all, congratulations, you are one of the winners of the Europe Film Festival U.K. 

What do you feel?

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who gave us a chance at this opportunity.

“she Q” is my first film. In the middle of my life, I took on the challenge as an opportunity to reconsider my sensibility and values. 

I am very happy and sincerely honored to receive the “BEST FIRST-TIME DIRECTOR” award.

Meaning in the title “she Q”

CQ is a telegraph signal that is mainly emitted when a ship is in distress. Overlapping the feelings of the women surrounding the hero and the hero’s conflict with them on the distress signal, and the movie was titled “she Q”. It is also implied to seek, searching for the world in which we live. 

What gave you the inspiration to write and direct this story? 

We recognize ourselves as an accumulation of past memories. And the accumulated memory is generally regarded as personal property. But I have lived with doubts about it. I wanted to focus on the uncertainty of the individual, which cannot be expressed in words. On the other hand, I feel the immeasurable romance that there is an individual body and spirit that only I can feel in the infinite and magnificent universe. It was at the beginning of filmmaking that I tried to express this contradictory drama, the paradox.

The basis of this work is a requiem for the children life that died of child abuse. The trigger was a 7-year-old girl’s abusive death by her parents in 2016. Shortly before her death, the deceased girl leaves her parents with the letter, “I will do it tomorrow, so please forgive me.” After that, the child died without a finale.

I wondered how this child would perceive the phenomenon that she was born, and it made my mind choke. As I thought about it, I wanted to be as close to her soul as possible.

One day, when I was looking at the food chain diagram from a bird’s-eye view, I realized that it was terrifying. Everyone is killed and eaten, except for those who stand at the top. And the ones that stand at the top are killed by younger ones as they age. If the essence of living is to be eaten by others, what is the salvation of living? 

Isn’t maternal affection universal salvation that any animal can have? If it wasn’t there…? With that in mind, I felt immeasurable fear. Isn’t it a world of despair that even doubts God?

Therefore, in this work, I decided to focus on “the maternal affection” with the theme of “salvation of life”.

Maternal affection is love that is shared by all life and is caused by instinct. Maternal affection is different from free love like agape. It also includes self-love and has an ambivalent aspect. That is why, in this work, I also pursued the conflict as humanity that emanates from the maternal affection and the beauty that arises from the conflict.

We, in a modern society living in a space like a deception, hope to comfort the young souls who have died even a little by reaffirming the meaning of life that leads to absurdity.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film/acting?

This is my first time making a movie, so I don’t have anything that I can teach, such as what kind of process is right or wrong. However, in the sense of an introduction, I would like to convey the motto of making this work.

I think that creating something should not be mainly about expressing what was originally imagined. My style is to start with the initial image, repeat many discoveries and groping for the object during the production, and deepen the question. Just like an adventure, if the image of the destination comes first, the meaning of exploring is halved. I think that the initial image should be kept in a rough direction and speculation.

What were the challenges in shooting this movie? 

Based on the motto mentioned above, we decided to make many script changes in the process of shooting this movie. I made a production plan in advance so that it would be possible. In addition, I thought that the policy should be shared not only within the director but also by all the people in the production team, and I directed the production staff and the actors and actresses under the policy of not forcing only the results originally imagined. In particular, the actors and actresses were asked to live their roles by entrusting them with role-making, script interpretation, clothes, hairstyles, and makeup. They took responsibility for the life of the role. At the same time, I was determined to accept the conclusions that came from it.

As a result, they were able to feel and play the role’s life without contradiction. Life of a role different from my original image appeared, and I was forced to change and retake the story, but thanks to that, I was able to create a world I did not know. And I feel that it eventually led to a deeper issue.

Of course, it goes without saying that it is premised that we have all the members who can be trusted.

Is it harder to get started or to keep going?

I think that these two cannot be separated like the two wheels of a car.

To a greater or lesser extent, starting or keeping going something is inevitable with the hesitation of determination, negative voices, and difficulties. Even advice from the good intentions of others sometimes feels negative as if it were totally denied. At that time, I try to tell myself. If you don’t start doing something, the meaning of “I” doesn’t occur. And you have to start doing it and keep going until it’s done. It’s more important than the result.

Once you start, have a strong ambition to “do whatever you want until it’s done.” I think this is an important attitude that applies to everything, not just art production.