It all started with the birth of the Kan administration. I also interviewed his opponent, Mr. Hirai!
Why Can’t You Be Prime Minister” (a.k.a. “Why Are You?”) was supported by more than 30,000 people in the documentary film industry, which is said to be “a huge success if 10,000 people watch it.
The film, directed by Arata Oshima, follows Junya Ogawa, a member of the House of Representatives, for 17 years, and has been released on DVD, distributed on the Internet, and published as a book (“Why Can’t You Be Prime Minister?” Nippon Hyoronsha) with a transcription of the entire text, which is unusual for a documentary film, as well as other related books.
In the midst of all this, I heard that filming has started on a project that will be a “sequel” to the movie. The name of the film is “Kagawa Ward 1. What kind of film is it? I interviewed the director, Shin Oshima.
“After the film’s release in June last year, I often received requests for a sequel. “Since the film’s release in June last year, I’ve been getting a lot of questions from the audience and the press. I replied, “I don’t know if we can release it, but I’ll continue to watch Mr. Ogawa,” and half-jokingly said that it would be interesting to make a sequel in five or ten years with the title, “I Never Thought You’d Become Prime Minister” (laughs).
In September last year, however, I changed my approach and decided to focus on the next election and see if there was a way to cover it intensively in a short span of time.
The trigger was the formation of the Kan administration and the fact that Mr. Ogawa had officially become a member of the Rikken DPJ, a new merged party. Also, it was a milestone for Mr. Ogawa, who had promised in his first run for office that he would retire early after the age of 50.
In the film, I depicted the agony of Mr. Ogawa’s inability to win in his district, but in April of this year, he will turn 50, which he promised to do, and by October 22 of this year, his term will expire and there will be an election.
He’s a very serious person, so he’s thinking about how he can make amends for his pledge, and he’s in a backwater situation, so it’s significant that Mr. Ogawa thought, ‘If I can properly win the election, I’d like you to let me continue for a little longer after I turn 50.
At the end of the film, he was only 2,000 votes behind his opponent under the adverse conditions of a typhoon. It seemed that the success of the film would be a tailwind, but then things took a sudden turn.
“After the Kan administration took office, his opponent, Takuya Hirai, became the Minister of State for Digital Reform.
As Kagawa is my wife’s hometown and my second home, I understand the conservative nature of the area, and the name “minister” is a big deal. Moreover, since he is the Minister of the Digital Agency, which is under the control of Prime Minister Kan, he is the focus of a great deal of attention. I thought, “This is a big deal.
On the other hand, the more difficult it is, the more interesting it is as a kind of documentary material (laughs). (laughs) So I thought that if possible, I could make a documentary focusing on the election by interviewing Minister Hirai himself and his supporters.
The actual filming began in April of this year, around the time Mr. Ogawa celebrated his 50th birthday. As the filming progressed, Mr. Ogawa began to get into election mode, which was actually a first for him.
This was the first time for him to do so. “The reason is that the dissolution of the Diet was always sudden, so the campaign lasted only about a month,” he said. But this time, since it was the first election where we could see what was going to happen near the end of the term, we had about three months of campaigning after we got into election mode.
So I was thinking of taking my time to start filming from the start of the campaign, when the Asahi Shimbun scoop about Mr. Hirai’s “thorough drying up” and “threatening to do so” came out in June. I thought, “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me” (laughs). (laughs) From that point on, the Weekly Bunshun released a series of scoops every week, and my desire to cover Mr. Hirai’s side, which I had been vaguely considering, became clear.
In fact, Mr. Ogawa has run in six elections so far, winning only once in his district, and Mr. Hirai has won five times. It is an obvious fact that the voters of Kagawa Ward 1 have let Mr. Hirai win, and I think there is some rational reason for their voting behavior.
Mr. Hirai, as you know, is a third-generation legislator and a member of the family that owns Shikoku Shimbun and Nishinippon Broadcasting, both of which have a 60% share of the local market. His younger brother is still the president of the Shikoku Shimbun and his mother is the owner of the company, making him the ‘media king of Kagawa. Mr. Ogawa, on the other hand, is a perm shop owner (the late son of a hair salon owner) with “no ground, no signboard, and no bag. This is a battle between a candidate with the traditional grounding and signboards of the LDP and an opposition candidate with ambitions to change society, and I think this kind of composition probably exists in every region. I thought I’d like to see that.
Mr. Hirai, the opposing candidate, was also interviewed: “This was the most tense filming I’ve ever done in my life.
By the way, unlike the previous film, my next film, “Kagawa Ward 1,” which will be based on the theme of elections, one of the two candidates is a subject I have been following for many years and is also my friend. You might be tempted to side with one of them. ……
“I’m a little dry, so I think I’m objective in that respect. I prioritize the director’s point of view rather than that of an acquaintance or friend.
In the previous film, when asked about the scene where Ogawa-san got angry at the uncle in the shopping arcade, he publicly said, “It was hard for me as a friend,” but to be honest, I was more inclined to say, “That’s so cool” (laughs). (laughs) I would never have been able to write a line like that even in a script.
Besides, Mr. Ogawa doesn’t change with or without the camera, and he doesn’t change easily when I say, “I think this way. Mr. Ogawa’s youthfulness and pallor may be considered unreliable compared to ordinary politicians, but they are also his strong points, so I think it’s up to the times to choose him.
It’s quite a daring project for the director of “Why Are You” to interview his opponent, Mr. Hirai, and his supporters, but I wonder if it’s possible.
But how is that possible? “Well, everyone knows about the film, so they were probably wary of how it would be shot, and at first I kept getting rejections. However, after persistent negotiations, we have already been able to interview several people, including those who agreed not to show their faces.
In fact, I’ve already interviewed Mr. Hirai himself. I know that you may be wary of me because I am the director of “Why You”, but as a documentarist, I believe that the facts of an interview are the most important, so I wrote him a letter saying that I would promise to give him the facts fairly if he agreed to be interviewed. I wrote a letter to him saying that I would promise to be fair and give him the facts if he agreed to be interviewed. It turned out to be the most nerve-wracking shooting of my life.
The shooting took place in Mr. Takuya Hirai’s room in the Diet building. “The first thing they did was to exchange business cards. “I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be exchanging business cards with Minister Hirai,” he said, and then the 30-minute filming began.
The first thing he said was, “I’m surprised you accepted me. I first asked him why he agreed to do an interview with me, but he said, “I try to do interviews whenever I can.
When I asked him if he had seen the movie, he said, “I haven’t seen the movie. I asked him if he had seen the movie, and he said, “I haven’t seen it, but it’s a very catchy title, isn’t it?
As a result, the movie raised Mr. Ogawa’s profile, so I asked him if he was bothered by it, but he answered in a mature manner throughout, saying, “I think it’s good that more people are interested in politics.
I also asked him about the weekly magazine reports, but even though his tone was a little strong, he was basically calm and spoke about his own political beliefs.
In “Why Mr. Hirai”, Mr. Ogawa is riding his bicycle around his hometown on a campaign trip in 2003, when he happens to run into Mr. Hirai at an intersection. Mr. Hirai’s dignified and relaxed stance, even giving a shout out from the street corner to the scrawny young man pedaling his bicycle, is very “politician” and I felt that I could clearly see the difference in character, position, and power in various ways between the two men.
What was your impression of Mr. Hirai when you actually met and talked with him?
“I thought he was a clever guy. When he decided to accept my request for an interview, he decided that it would be better to accept than to refuse.
Mr. Hirai’s appearance may give people a frightening impression, but I felt that he was not intimidating, and in fact, he was very open-minded. I didn’t mean to be taken in at all (laughs).
(laughs) However, the conversation inevitably drifted toward the digital reforms that would begin on September 1, so I tried to pull the conversation back as far as possible to what I wanted to hear, for example, about the reporting attitude of the Shikoku Shimbun. (laughs) There was a tug of war. (laughs) There was a tug-of-war. Please enjoy the movie.
What “Kagawa Ward 1” Aims to Achieve
The Corona disaster has brought politics closer to people’s lives, and from 2020, politics-related dramas and movies will be on the rise. Under such circumstances, what is the goal of “Kagawa Ward 1” again?
“I know it’s a bit rude of me, but as long as I am involved in this kind of expression, I would like to see society change for the better, even if only slightly, as a result of what I put out in my expression.
At the moment, “Poisoning Pancakes,” directed by a friend of mine, Yuto Uchiyama, is a big hit, but if you look at the reviews, the opinions are extremely divided.
If you look at the reviews, you’ll see that people are extremely divided in their opinions. It simply shows where they stand politically; those who think the prime minister and the government are wrong from the beginning go to confirm it, while those who are on the other side are verbally abusive. I think the film’s attempt is very admirable and I support it, but the fact that it’s seen as a political film doesn’t resolve the conflict of opinions.
In that respect, “Why You” was a human drama and a family drama, so there were very few abusive opinions, but maybe this is not the case with “Kagawa’s First Ward. However, for my part, I would like to make a work that both supporters can watch and feel satisfied with. This doesn’t mean that I want to look good for both sides, but that I don’t want to make a film that will stir up division.
Incidentally, what did Mr. Ogawa have to say about “Kagawa Ward 1”?
He was a little surprised, but said, “That’s just like you, Mr. Oshima. He said, ‘It’s just like Mr. Oshima, how could you come up with something like that?’ He said, ‘Whether I win or I lose, it’s a story either way.
I would like to take a multifaceted look at the general election in Kagawa’s Ward 1 and get a closer look at the consciousness of the voters. In order to do that, I want to properly depict the rationality of those who vote for Mr. Hirai’s side, and I want to capture it honestly.
Born in Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture in 1969, Arata Oshima joined Fuji Television Network after graduating from Waseda University in 1995. After graduating from Waseda University in 1995, he joined Fuji Television Network, where he worked as the director of “NONFIX” and “The Nonfiction”, and left Fuji Television in 1999 to become a freelance filmmaker. In 2007, he directed “Theatrical: A Record of Karajuro and the Karagumi Theater Company”, which won the Documentary Award at the 17th Japan Film Critics Awards. In 2016, he directed “The Life of Sion Sono”. In 2016, he directed “The Life of Sono Sion” and produced “Blur, Please. (2018/The Bunka-Cho Film Awards, Grand Prize for Cultural and Documentary Films).
Interview. Text by： Wakako Tago
Born in 1973. After working for a publishing company and an advertising production company, became a freelance writer. In addition to interviewing actors and actresses for weekly and monthly magazines, she writes drama columns for a variety of media. JUMP 9 no Tobira ga Openitoki" (both published by Earl's Publishing).
Photography： Mayumi Abe