16th October 2009
I am now leaving Yamagata with 2 awards; the Special Jury Prize for ‘amazing access in an entertaining way’, and the Citizens’ Award, the latter being a gift from the people of Yamagata who voted our film to be their favourite of the festival. Very touching.
The whole experience has been nerve-racking, I never knew how the Japanese would see the film but they laughed and were moved at all right points, some felt I made some sweeping generalisations in my commentary which I guess was true.
But I leave Naoki and Yoshie as local heroes, or is it anti-heroes? Naoki went to see his doctor today who congratulated him on the film, and added that he never knew he was living with Yoshie who also happens to be a patient of his. People stopping and staring shaking Naoki’s hand is a far cry from the man I found hiding from the world 4 years ago, Yoshie worries a little for the future and doesn’t want me to disappear and forget them, but tonight at work she expects to find more new customers coming to meet the local woman from the film.
I feel sad to leave Yamagata as this chapter in my life closes and a new one awaits me in the Middle East, but I don’t feel like I’m leaving Naoki and Yoshie behind, they are coming with me, an inspiration for making more films and many more friends in the future.
17th october 2009
It was great to hang-out once again in Yamagata with Naoki and Yoshie, to cook veggie food round at their place, each day I indulged in my favourite tofu dressed in a gorgeous sesame sauce. It is the one Japanese dish I will always miss.
And now I am cooking a tofu omelette breakfast for Atsushi and Mako in Tokyo on my way home, they both helped me through this bumpy sometimes very difficult 4 year project. And before I fly back to England I will give a talk at the University where my good friend Toshiko works, Toshiko has been a strong supporter of me also… Oh dear there are so many people I have troubled whilst making this film, so many people who have tried keep my spirits high when I faced some of the darkest loneliest moments of my life lost in Japan. To be with them all again, celebrating the awards for a successful film is truly wonderful and almost worth the pain. As I ‘joked’ when I picked up the first award ‘It makes me almost love Japan… But not quite’.
It is funny to be sat with Atsushi, my Japanese ‘film-school’ friend who has helped me immensely since I started my difficult journey here in Tokyo all those years ago. At times he could see no point and would tell me to give up and go home, “You will never find what you are looking for here Sean, go home”, he would say, “Stop killing yourself”. So it is such a pleasure to be sat with him 4 years on sitting next to my two trophies, having a quiet drink. I remember being here in the very same seat many many times whilst I was lost dazed and confused.
And finally, I am so happy we had a post-screening party for Naoki and his co-workers from the post-office in Yamagata. They never understood my filming at the time but at the party they were full of praise, and I’m pleased we also bumped into mushroom man, he pulled-up on his post-office bike whilst on his delivery route, I love his smile, it reminds me so much of Naoki.