I’ve been on a wild ride touring the film festival circuit, having seen fifty feature films in the span of a month. As I settle into to Tokyo, I find myself crashing on a futon in the production office with a band of renegade young Japanese filmmakers. I’ve discovered that the kinship between filmmakers is deeper than skin deep. The obsessive fanaticism that it takes to be a filmmaker brings together the most passionate of characters and a certain kind of trust is built into your relationship the second you nervously click play to show them your film.
Our conversations about cinema go late into the dark lung smoke filled night, fueled by whiskey and beer along with a lone projector. We share our films with each other, whether in progress or long ago completed and discuss the artistic merits of our favorite films. Luckily it’s easier to agree in a foreign language than it is disagree and our conversations go on without interruption.
As I speak rusty French with a Foujita-inspired Japanese oil painter turned film director, he translates my French into Japanese, which elicits a response in Japanese from the rest of the crew, only to be turned right back into French and then sloppily translated back into English in my head. This works surprisingly well, until we stumble upon the topic of Israel-Palestine politics, which ends in a matter of minutes. Whatever gets lost in translation along the way somehow becomes poetic in the boozey haze of a sunrise conversation. One night-turned-day I open the blinds and realize we’ve talked straight through the night. It’s 7am.
I’ve been writing, photographing and reading As always characters crawl out of the woodwork, like the sixty year old film producer who is taking me to a film festival tomorrow who I met in a traditional Japanese bath house down the street. Or the Michael Cerra-esque American who spells out late empire, overeducated angst more clearly than if everyone in the world spoke Esperanto. Or the Henri, the Nigerian sex industry tour guide who has makes Japan his home and raises two multi-cultural children in the midst of the red light district.
All of these real-life characters and more come to life on the page as I begin the first stages of writing a film to be shot over my Watson year. It’s hard to say what exactly will pop up in each location, but the general idea is to film three protagonists working in the tourism industry as they navigate the power structures and economic uncertainties of globalization. In each country I’ll film a small portion and then cut them together into a weaving narrative.
I’ve begun to focus less on the ‘epic myth’ and more on the ultra-personal. I’ve begun to place my microscope on the characters that are precise products of the process of globalization. These diaspori scattered across the globe—myself included—provide insights into the melting pot of the world. I can’t really tell the story of Chinese or Japanese society with any authority. However, I’m able to see through the eyes of those people that are, like me, outsiders to this place. And that’s where I’ll start.