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Interview with the director

Interview with the director

The title of your film, AUGUST, refers to the anniversary of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. Why did you decide to make a film about it?
Mieko Azuma: Five years ago I was in Hiroshima for the first time and stood on its ground. The ground in Hiroshima is one meter higher than it had been before the atomic bomb exploded because the survivors asphalted the ground and buried the rubble, trees and dead people underneath it. I was confused that I couldn't imagine what happened there at that time. This feeling captured me.

In the film, you have actors interacting with real life situations. Why did you choose to shoot this way?
Within the documentary way of filming I created a subjective perspective of a person in order to tell about the unimaginable past and the personal memory.

You’re exploring the memory - or to be more accurate the fading of memory - through the investigation of the writer Johanna. What is the connection between the organised, institutionalised commemoration of Hiroshima and a much more intimate and private search for lost childhood memories?
In contrast to the institutionalised preserving of the past it was important for me to show the human nature of forgetting and repressing memories. The confrontation of these two ways of memories shall open up questions about the subject of memory in the minds of the audience.

What part do the different languages play in the film?
The subtitles were used consciously to show what Johanna is understanding, so that the audience can empathise with Johanna's situation in a foreign country. The entangled communication with various languages in the film should imply how difficult it is to transfer the past through language.

The way you use reverse shots in the interview scenes gives a strong sense of separation, as if the testimony were something completely sealed, impossible to be truly understood and passed on to those who weren’t there when it happened.
It is possible to interpret the film in different ways because it is narrated fragmentarily and not in a logical way. In contrast to the past described in the testimonies daily life in Hiroshima seems to be very normal. I was impressed by the fact that people had or have to forget and repress their memories in order to live their lives. Parallel to the story of Johanna, it was important for me to show the present Hiroshima.

How did you come into contact with the people that are interviewed in the film?
The young girl whose grandmother had just died in the film I met when I went to Hiroshima in 2007 for doing the first research. In an exhibition against nuclear bombs she was the only young one among only old people. She had bleached hair back then and was wearing a leather necklace with a metal sting. She was very interesting so I talked to her. The old woman I got to know through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The people there chose an eye witness from their pool of experienced storytellers. I wanted to use this arrangement for the concept of the film to show how well this institutionalised culture of remembrance is working today.