Monday, August 29, 2016

Group Photography

The final day of the Doc+ Workshop in Taipei began with a screening of "We Come As Friends" (2014) followed by a Q&A with the film editor Cathie Dambel.  In the afternoon, Ms. Dambel gave a master class on film editing, which was followed later in the afternoon by a panel discussion about editing with the three international filmmakers, including Director Feng Yan and myself.



As I did after Director Feng Yan's master class on Friday (STORY), I would like to share a few lessons that master editor Ms. Dambel shared during the panel:
  • There will be conflicts.
  • The editor must always accompany the director.
  • Each player on the film team has a role to play and does not cross-over.
  • A director should spend 50% of the time selecting the team.
  • If the edit is 6 weeks, I like to work 3 weeks, then 2 weeks, then 1 week on the edit, with breaks in between.
  • When the character is speaking, we must sense what is being said as well as what is not being said.
  • The aim of editing is how to represent what you felt.
  • Sometimes in our own films we must take a risk, we need to take this risk to express ourselves.
Following the editing panel discussion, the members of the 8 groups of filmmakers who had applied to attend the workshop with their film projects, gathered together for a de-briefing during which the young filmmakers shared their observations and some of that they had learned.  I was deeply honoured to hear that although some of them had not fully comprehended our feedback during the initial one to one sessions, after taking part in our master classes they had more fully understood what we had shared with them.



The event ended with a group photo:


This morning I was interviewed by Shr-tzung and Fan Wu from the Taiwan International Documentary Festival for the Taiwan Documentary E-Paper and their readership of Taiwanese documentary filmmakers and industry professionals. 

It was so interesting to be interviewed about my film career so soon after the workshop ended; my mind was still swimming after having shown some of my early work and that had inspired me to start tracing back the path that has brought me to where I am today...



I am now at the airport on the way home to Japan, sad to leave Taiwan, a country I love so much, but also happy to get back to work on my new films re-inspired and re-invigorated.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

"101 in how not to make a documentary"

Day two of the Doc+ Workshop sponsored by 國家電影中心 Taiwan Film Institute and 台灣國際紀錄片影展 TIDF (Taiwan International Film Festival) was full of wonderful experiences. The morning and afternoon were spent in 30 minute individual meetings with the 8 teams whose documentaries were selected to take part in a "clinic" with the three guest filmmakers. I really enjoyed discussing more in depth with the young filmmakers about their projects and to offer them advice based on my experiences.


In the afternoon, my friends Panos, from Greece, and Mei, from Taiwan, stopped by for a visit with their two boys.  Panos, Mei and I were flatmates when we were attending the University of Bristol 13 years ago.  They met in our flat, fell in love, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Later in the afternoon was a screening of my first film "the ballad of vicki and jake" (2006, UK), which I myself had not seen for many years (film website HERE).  I selected the film to screen at this event specifically because it contains mistakes-- my mistakes-- from which I hoped young filmmakers could learn.  In the film criticism published by Matt Crowder in 2005 when the film first came out, he wrote (full article HERE):

"vicki and jake" is a 101 in how not to make a documentary. Ian and Ken threw themselves into this with the enthusiasm of people who had never made a feature documentary before. It shouldn’t have worked. Except it has.

It was a moving experience to watch the film again on the big screen after so many years, and to field deeply probing questions regarding the murky ethics surrounding the film from audience members who had so deeply engaged with vicki's story.


 The screening event was followed in the evening by my 2.5 hour (!) master class, which I called "Documenting the Documentary".  My talk was split into four parts:
  • "Self-reflection"
  • "Documenting vs Journalism"
  • "Technology in Documenting"
  • "Documentary subjects: forming relationships, maintaining boundaries"
And interspersed throughout I showed clips from my films ranging from my work documenting the disaster in Fukushima to my friend who died of breast of breast cancer and a hospice care doctor in Japan (FILMS).


My gratitude to all of the TFI and TIDF staff and volunteers as well as the amazing team of interpreters.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Director Feng Yan on Urban Ethics, reality and passion

In Taipei this week, I am attending the Doc + Documentary Workshop sponsored by the Taiwan Film Institute (INFO).  And it is my great honour to serve as a lecturer beside filmmakers Feng Yan, from China, and Cathie Dambel, from France.


The workshop consists of four main parts.  The first part a "clinic" for 8 groups of filmmakers whose projects have been selected to receive feedback from the lecturers.  Yesterday, we watched and discussed the projects in an open session with all 8 groups present, while today we will meet with the groups individually to provide them one to one feedback.  The 8 projects are all unique and exciting and demonstrate the amazing quality of documentary film being produced in this small country.




Last evening was a screening of Director Feng Yan's gorgeous and important film "Bingai", which documents a strong and charismatic woman's struggle during her family's displacement under the Three Gorges Dam project in China.  The screening was followed by a Master Class giving by Director Feng, and I was taking notes alongside the young filmmakers in the audience.  Here are some of the quotes from this master filmmaker and story-teller that I would like to share with you:
  • Documentary is a reflection of our reality.
  • Documentary is not real, not non-fiction.
  • Story-tellers tell the story differently depending on their mood.
  • Are you using your camera to make your audience hear what you want them to hear or to allow your subjects to say what they want to say?
  • How and when and where the question is asked affects how it is answered.  The answer will depend on the relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee.
  • As filmmakers we are looking for that "one correct answer", but the realty has many layers.
  • What matters is not the absolute truth, but understanding how the filmmaker's approach affects the result.
  • The director must not focus on "reality", rather the focus should be on the story on which the character wants to focus.
  • Filmmakers have absolute responsibility to their subjects because you can not ask for filming permission every second.
  • Our urban ethics may not apply in the countryside.
  • Images help you express something you can not tell in words.
  • It takes passion to make documentary film.
The screening of my first film, "the ballad of vicki and jake" (2006, UK) will be today (film WEBSITE).  I myself have not seen this film for more than 8 years (!).  This will be followed by my master class, which will focus on the relationship between the filmmaker and subject.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mr. Hata and The Festival of the Dead

All has been quiet on my social media front.  This often happens when I find myself in the depths of the edit suite working on a new film.  Over the next couple of months I will be sharing about a new feature documentary film for which I am currently overseeing the post-production, and it is by far the strangest film I have worked on to date...

In the meantime, I did find time to (briefly) escape from the edit suite for about 36 hours over this past weekend for the Obon holiday (Festival of the Dead).  Last year,  I spent the Obon holiday with a friend who was documenting the festivities for television (Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE, Part 3 HERE and Part 4 HERE).

This year was very different as I marked the holiday with Mr. Hata's family in Fukushima.  I first wrote about Mr. Hata when I reunited him with his son 30 after years (STORY).  When he died, I wrote THIS entry and then when he was buried, I wrote THIS one.

As this was the first Obon since he died, I felt it was important to pay my respects at his grave and to spend time with Mrs. Hata and her family.  

After visiting Mr. Hata's grave, I posted the following photos on Twitter:





















Friday, June 17, 2016

Mr. Hata, a postscript: 49 days later

Yesterday, as is Buddhist tradition, Mr. Hata's burial took place 49 days after his death.  Held in a forest deep in the countryside of Japan, it was one of the most unusual burials I have ever had the honour of attending.  A description with accompanying photos is HERE.


In April, I shared about the honour I had in reuniting a dying man with the son he had not seen in 30 years.  I published a photo-documentary about their reunion called "Mr. Hata and T" (story and photos HERE).

Three weeks to the day after being reunited with his son, Mr. Hata died peacefully in his sleep.  I collected some thoughts, photos and words of condolences in a post-script HERE

Thank you all so very much for sharing in Mr. Hata's story, for your kind words of support and condolences, and for sharing about how his story has affected you personally.  May we carry with us the lessons he has left with us as we continue on our journey of life.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Surprises and Symposiums

In June 2013, my film 'A2-B-C', about children living in Fukushima (WEBSITE), was awarded at the World Premier in Germany (STORY).  After a world tour of over 25 festivals and several awards later, the film came home to Japan, and the following spring enjoyed what would eventually turn out to be a 6-week residency at the PolyPoly Higashi Nakano theatre in Tokyo ahead of a country-wide cinematic release (STORY).  After the last screening at the cinema in Tokyo ended with a bang (STORY), 'A2-B-C' then went on to have a second life in so-called "private screenings", also called "four-walling", until all distribution for the film was abruptly and unceremoniously cancelled in March of last year in a move that was seen as some as an attempt at censorship (STORY).  Six months later, the private screening process was re-established, and the film could once again be seen in Japan (STORY).  

Last autumn, I had the honour of attending and speaking at several of these screenings, although with my recent filming and editing work, including the follow film to 'A2-B-C' (STORY), I have not been able to attend a screening of the film for several months.  Yesterday, there was screening of 'A2-B-C' in Tokyo, and although I was not scheduled to attend, I decided to surprise both the audience and the organizers by showing up moments before the film ended.  The organizers were shocked to see me, but welcomed me warmly and asked me to speak to the audience before the post-screening discussion.  It was an honour to speak to the audience, and share with them about the filming I have been doing in Fukushima in the more than three years since filming on 'A2-B-C' finished.



In the evening, I attended a symposium about affects on human health and Fukushima.  One of the presenters, Dr. Ushiyama, is one of the founders of the 311 Thyroid Cancer Family Group (STORY), and for even those who have been studying the problems in Fukushima since the beginning, the symposium was filled with eye-opening information based on research from Chernobyl and the testimonies of patients and families in Fukushima and Northern Tochigi.


with Dr. Ushiyama and my assistant Rei following the symposium

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Going Global

Shortly after I posted my interview with the first young person with thyroid cancer in Fukushima to speak out two weeks ago (STORY), I accompanied AP reporter Yuri Kageyama (TWITTER) to Fukushima where I introduced her to the young woman. Yuri's story, "Woman breaks silence among Fukushima thyroid cancer patients" was published by the AP yesterday (read HERE) and was included in their "The Big Story", "Top News", and "10 things to know for Today" sections.  If this doesn't shake things up, I don't know what will...

The AP also sent out THIS powerful Tweet:
A few hours after the article was published, I received a message with an interview request from Mike Woods at Radio France Internationale English Service.  I was at a dinner meeting, so I excused myself to go outside.  While standing on a street in Tokyo on my iPhone, the interview was recorded in a sound booth in France- a great example of using technology for good.  The interview is HERE (3 min).

I am so grateful to the AP and reporter Yuri Kageyama for helping to share this brave young woman's story with the world.

Thank you all so very much for your support and encouragement.

Peace,
Ian