Kohki Hasei • Director
by Madison Moore
- VENICE 2015: Japanese director Kohki Hasei is presenting the Italian co-production Blanka at Biennale College Cinema
Japanese director Kohki Hasei tells Cineuropa about the making of Blanka [+see also:
interview: Kohki Hasei
film profile], his first feature film, as well as his connection to the city of Manila, the experience of working with non-actors, and the magic of childhood. The film was selected for the Biennale College Cinema section of the Venice Film Festival 2015.
Cineuropa: One of the things that’s so beautiful about this film is the way you incorporate Manila. What is your relationship with this city?
Kohki Hasei: Actually, I visited Manila for the first time 12 years ago, and I went to the garbage dump site called Smoky Mountain. I met children who are living and working in the garbage dump, and they opened my eyes. Then, every Christmas time I continued to visit them to bring gifts, and then I thought it would be nice to make a short film with them for fun.
For the main characters, how did you find the actors and prepare them for the shoot?
I met Peter (Peter Millari) three years ago on the street. We became friends, and then I made a short movie with him. Actually, I wrote the script thinking of him this time. Then the production started, and I asked my crew to find Peter, but nobody knew where he was because he is a street musician and he travels around. It took us one month to find him! I said to my crew, “Without him I will go home. I cannot make this film.” In cinema, we are working in a visual art form, but I really enjoyed working with blind people. They are really natural - Peter is so natural. He’s my hero. He gave me a letter before we wrapped. He really wrote me a sweet letter and I brought it to the premier. It was very emotional. With Blanka (Cydel Gabutero), she was not living in Manila. She lives on a different island and it’s quite far. Luckily, I asked my crew to find her again three weeks before the shoot. They contacted her father, and they were in Manila at that time, so we met her and had a workshop.
Did you experience any challenges or surprises while shooting this film since you were working with a number of non-actors?
All the time. It’s a mess and at the same time it’s a miracle. The poor would come to the set wanting money from us. We also had to get a real police car on the set, so they came too. It’s a miracle all the time. I took two months to find the characters such as Sebastian, Blanka and Peter. I was also casting on the set! I cast many background characters this way, such as the children and secondary characters, but because they are living on the street, they disappear sometimes. It’s really sad. My production company convinced me to cast the kids from the set, since they come and visit anyway to see the shooting. I found this guy, that guy, these girls, and we’d give dialogue to them. It happened naturally like this every day.
In this film, you address the nature of childhood and the challenges of growing up. Do you plan to work with children in future productions?
Yes. It’s a beautiful energy that children have. We are all children before. Children don’t care if they are rich or if they are poor, or what they are standing on. It’s a beautiful energy. They don’t care. I mean, they are bad sometimes, but mostly they enjoy life in a way that is full of energy.
You achieve a beautiful balance between serious subject matter and some funnier, more joyful moments. How did you create this?
Filipinos! They are making jokes every day - even those who have such a hard life in the slum. Of course, it’s easy to complain and it’s easy to be sad, but in order to survive they keep joking and keep enjoying life. We also had a lot of improvisation by the actors. We enjoyed the shoot a lot. I don’t want to write a depressing movie. If I write something depressing, depression will come. I have to suffer it. I should write something beautiful so beauty will come. Life is short.