Takaomi Ogata: “Movements as #MeToo and Time’s Up have not really had an impact in Japan”
The director is famous for his clear confrontation towards our societies’ social problems in his work. His previous film, Sunk in the Womb, portrayed a real case of violence against minors in Osaka. In this case, he presents teenagers’ problems, suicide, a culture of violence and school harassment.
The drama starts with a teacher’s incarceration due to some abuses to minors. When a rumor arises about a student who appears in one of his porn videos, the student becomes a victim of cyber-harassment, is disowned from her family, and rejected by her boyfriend and friends.
Shot as a documentary, The Hungry Lion, is a criticism towards Japanese society which, despite its modernity, continues to practice the “law of silence”, while also being a criticism towards global society, especially concerning the role of social networks: they push us into these immediate toxic trends.
What’s the metaphor hidden behind the title of the film, “The Hungry Lion”?
It came by a picture called, “Le lion, ayant faim, se jette sur l’antilope” by a French artist, Henri Rousseau. In front of the painting, a lion deeply bites at an antelope’s neck in jungle. A leopard hides in bush at the back and tries to get shared. An owl waits and sees how things go, holding meat in its mouth. Moreover, there are another bird and a monkey with a hard stare.
In this picture, the jungle is a world of the internet or social networking environment that keeps anonymity. In addition, you can see animals as people chase the protagonist until suicide in the movie, and also you can capture the jungle as a society that makes “virtual reality.” I felt the picture is like the present Japan’s microcosm. So, I borrowed the title of the painting.
Sunk into the Womb was sponsored by a charitable organization fighting against child abuse, has any NGO showed interest in The Hungry Lion as well?
Although this movie has not received any support or recommendation from official organizations, a group with saves youths’ suicide cooperates with us for this movie. And some college professors inquire on us to use the movie for their Media Literacy classes.
I’ve read that this film was difficult because of the subject matter, why the Japanese society doesn’t want to tackle these major social problems?
In Japan, the causes of various incidents and problems are personal and tend to be thought as it is self-responsibility. They can not be regarded as a social problem. Problems as child abuse, nursing care, unemployment, life deprivation, have long been considerated as individual problems.
Suicide has become a very common practice in your country. Is your film helping out a positive talking on this problem?
I would be happy if my movie will make it so, but it’ll be difficult. For Japanese people, suicide has already become one of everyday sight, especially in Tokyo.
However, the number of suicides in Japan has decreased year by year. The number of young people committed suicide remains high. I think we need to take suicide measures with emphasis on young people.
Netflix series 13 reasons why has also been so controversial because of talking about rape, sexual harassment, victim blaming, cyber bullying and suicide. Why do you think it’s so difficult to open a debate on these subjects?
Since women’s discrimination still remains strong in Japan, many people think that women victims have a fault in cases of revenge porn and sexual violence, also drawn in this work. This makes air that victims are hard to vocalize. It seems to be an obstacle to discuss.
The film portrays some nowadays international concerns as the fake news and the impact of social media on teenager lives, but you’re also critic with the silence law of the Japanese society. Was it your intentions to talk both about the local and the global?
In the previous work “Sunk into the Womb” based on a real event, I experienced the violence of images and information. After that, looking at the overheated coverage of the victims of cases occurred in Japan, I came up with the idea of this movie. Initially, it is not from the consciousness of problems to society, as mentioned above, personal feelings have been used as a trigger.
How, if so, has the international feminine movement Time’s Up affected Japan?
#MeToo and Time’s Up became movements in the world, women began to raise their voices a little behind in Japan. In addition, a journalist, Shiori Ito announced that she was sexually violated in a hotel room in 2015 by a senior journalist. Although Ms. Ito’s assertion was reported in part, it is mainly by overseas news medium. Almost all domestic medium ignore. On the other hand, in social media, Ms. Ito labeled as “a prostitute.” Moreover, she was targeted for criticism as “Honey trap.” Movements like #MeToo and Time’s Up have not worked well in Japan.
Why did you decide to film The Hungry Lion as a cold and distant documentary?
Peeping into the life of others is very exciting. And we are always consuming sad news and terrible events all over the world from a safe place. Just as if watching a movie. I depicted this movie as a bystander’s point of view. Since just like those who consume the protagonist’s misfortune and sexual videos in this movie, I would like the audience to realize that they have also “peeping desire” and also to feel guilty by this movie.
Your decision of filming some sequences single framed with no camera movement and the cut between scenes with a black screen between each gives the audience a voyeur condition, what kind of experience were you looking the audience to experience?
People are always unaware of their own evil. Moreover, in a movie like this, the audience doesn’t overlap themselves on people around the main character who chase her, but they tend to emphasize on the main character who is a victim. So, in order not to let the audience empathize to the protagonist as much as possible, I broke the connection among scenes. Hopefully, I would like the audience to feel that they should have watched the evil in the movie, but in reality they are watching the evil in themselves.