Making a mark in independent filmmaking
JAPANESE FILMMAKER Tetsuya Mariko, a well-known director in the independent film circuit shot to fame in 2003 with his sophomore effort ‘The Far East Apartment’ which was invited to 13 film festivals and won seven of those awards.
The following year, his short film ‘Mariko’s 30 Pirates’ which was shot during his final year as a student at university, won awards at nine film festivals.
In 2007, Mariko entered Tokyo University of the Arts Graduate School Film and New Media where he collaborated with three other directors to film ‘Lush Life’. Based on a bestselling novel in Japan, it was released in 2009 and was a prime example of how first-time filmmakers found it difficult to turn original stories into full-length feature films.
“In Japan, most of the films are based on big hit novels. For first time filmmakers to make an original story into a feature length film is difficult because they are not allowed to do it on their own,” said the 33-year-old independent filmmaker during an interview with The Borneo Post SEEDS.
On March 12th, more than 150 students attended a workshop with Mariko and Osaka-based Malaysian director Lim Kah Wai at TV6 Studio in the Faculty of Applied Arts and Creativity of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas). The workshop was a collaborative effort between Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur, Kelab Seni Filem Malaysia and Unimas.
According to cinematography programme lecturer Yow Chong Lee, the workshop focused on the working experience of both Lim and Mariko in filmmaking, hoping that it could inspire the students to be more exposed and inspired with contemporary Japanese cinema.
Mariko’s film ‘Fun Fair’, the first of a three-part omnibus movie was among the films shown during the workshop. Shot entirely in Malaysia, the film was both engaging and humorous as it followed lost girl ‘Xiaojiajia’ on a little misadventure trying to find her mother to return her wedding ring after she left home for work at a fun fair in town.
Along the way, she is helped by a Japanese businessman, Kimura and a rickshaw driver called Alif. Kimura is reluctant to leave the girl alone. Although he is supposed to be on a night flight, he stays to help look for the fun fair where Jiajia’s mother is working with the help of Alif, who seemed wary of Kimura at first.
While none of them speak the same language and run into communication problems, the trio manage to find the fun fair and Xiaojiajia is reunited with her mother.
According to Mariko, the film’s storyline was based on what he felt while he was in Malaysia.
“I was born and raised in Tokyo, so the feeling I had in a different place, which is probably normal to the locals but for me, it is all new, so I have been making films based on what I felt when going to a new place,” said Mariko. ‘Fun Fair’ was shot in 2012.
For Mariko, when making a film he tries to leave some element of fun in his film for the audience. While not everyone might understand the question he is trying to portray, for him as long as something fun and interesting is delivered, he hopes that the audience would feel something while watching his film.
While independent films and filmmaking are gaining more interest, especially among the youth, they also face difficulty in gaining approval from the public.
“Maybe it is because of the Internet and the easy steps to upload your work on the website,” said Mariko. “If a lot of people do not like what you uploaded, flaming would occur, and because of flaming, some people would not put their work on the website because it is going to give easy access to the artwork and it may affect the creativity and artistic part of it.”
Flaming is an act of posting offensive messages within an online discussion forums between members within a certain forum regarding a certain topic.
Despite the possible flaming modern-day filmmakers experience online, Mariko advised that to make your films distinctive to other films, it was important to be interested in your own work more than those involved.
“I myself have to be the very first to be interested in what I am doing and what I am making more than others who are involved,” he said.
While it is vital to be devoted to your work, Mariko also advised that it was important to have fun from time to time.
“As I was saying to the students during the workshop, it is important to have fun while working. There are times that you might think too much until you cannot do anything, but even so it is important to keep having fun because that can lead to something in the end,” he advised. He also believes that to be a good director, one has to be trustworthy.
“The director maybe selfish or look crazy, but as long as all the cast and crew can trust the director, then that person can make a good director,” said Mariko.