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Exclusive interview with Daishi Matsunaga, a film director from "Egoist"

"Egoist" (エゴイスト in Japanese) is one of the films in Competition category at 35th Tokyo International Film Festival 2022. By the courtesy of TIFF, we got an opportunity to have special interview with Daishi Matsunaga, a film director from LDH Japan who had long experience from documentary films, shares his viewpoints about the LGBT+Q movie and the way he managed his production.

Daishi Matsunaga after interview (image: inStyle Asia) 

InStyle Asia: Do you have any favourite movies or film directors?

Daishi Matsunaga: There are so many, but i like Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick.

InStyle Asia: Why you like them?

Daishi Matsunaga: Both of them made the completed films, but they are different. I think, Akira Kurosawa make the films like jump out of the frame, but Stanley Kubrick worked in very control style. I think, those two directors made the basis for making my film.

inStyle Asia: You said you liked Akira Kurosawa, What is your most favourite films from this director?

Daishi Matsunaga: "Seven Samurais". 

Daishi Matsunaga after interview (image: inStyle Asia)

InStyle Asia: How would you described your directing style? And why you are focusing on the actors' movement, not like we're looking at them from a distant. But it was like we 're following them.

Daishi Matsunaga: One of the important and basic thing for my directing style is,  i've made the document films in the past. Following behind the actors originated from my documentary works' background. 

Instead of casting actors who doesn't have the essence of those character, putting things on them or making them do something. But I casted actors who probably have essence of the characters and pulled it out of them, drew out their essence. I don't move the actors around but i pulled out or drew out the characters ' essence or the elements from them and then i tried to follow them.

Daishi Matsunaga after interview (image: inStyle Asia)

inStyle Asia: Please let us know your main reason to cast two main characters, Hio Miyazawa and Ryohei Suzuki?

Daishi Matsunaga: When we casting, i talked to the producer and discussed about casting. This times, the producer gave me the two actors' names. I thought, the chemistry between Ryohei Suzuki and Hio Miyazawa are quite well. That's why we chose these two actors.

inStyle Asia: What is your most difficult time when you making this film? And how you managed the difficulties for the production works?

Daishi Matsunaga: The budget and time is always a problem here in Japan. How can i manage my work, I think about it positively or working positively and still create and keep my style. That was a challenge.

 Everythings in one scene were made in one shot (one scene one cut). Because cutting back from one perspective to another scenes may takes time, so i have to reduce the time. 

One scene is made in one shot is really relied on the actors. They have to exist in very present but i was quite confident about be able to do that. 

I used a lot of close-up and also another reason, because of the budget. If i do long shot, we have to have to put many things at their. But we don't have time and budget for that, it's one reason why i used a lot of close-up shot.

©Makoto Takayama, Shogakukan/TokyoTheatres Co.,Inc.,NIKKATSU CORPORATION,RIGHTS CUBE Inc.,ROBOT COMMUNICATIONS INC.

inStyle Asia: Why you picked the LGBT topics?

Daishi Matsunaga: The person who want to make the film from the beginning is producer. Actually i debuted my works as a film director and i used to shot a documentary film about my friend who are transgender. I've worked for 10 years for the documentary films. 

I always have a basic when i started to do it. This times i wanted to make a film based on a writer's novel with the sexualities theme.

©Makoto Takayama, Shogakukan/TokyoTheatres Co.,Inc.,NIKKATSU CORPORATION,RIGHTS CUBE Inc.,ROBOT COMMUNICATIONS INC.

inStyle Asia: Mother and son is a kind of relationship which is unique in Asia culture. Many mothers expected her son (?) to get marriage, have kids and build a happy family. But in the movie, the mother seems to understand situation and accepted their relationship. Her words also mentioned about the genderless love. Do you think family is an important part for the same sex couple?

Daishi Matsunaga: I think, it usually not mother, but actually father is the person who do not accept or hard to accept the kind of LGBT's relationship. 

When i made my first film about a transgender friend, Talking about her family, his father is actually the last one who are not accept her sexualities' right until the end, but mother accepted the fact at a very early stage. From my own experience, the mothers tend to accept her (son ?)

Actually I don't know how genderless people speaking about the Japanese mother and father, but this is based on our experience. I don't think it's rare or a kind of special thing, i accepted about this.

©Makoto Takayama, Shogakukan/TokyoTheatres Co.,Inc.,NIKKATSU CORPORATION,RIGHTS CUBE Inc.,ROBOT COMMUNICATIONS INC.

inStyle Asia: In the film, Ryuta (Hio Miyazawa) is so shy and didn't want other people look at him when he is walking and holding the hands with Keisuke (Ryohei Suzuki). 

To show the same-sex relationship or being LGBT in Japan still be considering like secret in society, instead of telling to the others, they may prefer to keep it like a secret or prefer not tell others. What do you think about this?

Daishi Matsunaga: Talking about holding hands between the gay men, I don't know the right in foreign countries when people kissing in public, but i think, even men and women (in Japan) still not open (to kiss in public) yet. 

I think the same women like two girls holding hands in public, they're just friends, people don't think they're couple or anything related to love relation. But in case of men, it much more harder. They may not hold their hands, to avoid the  society's eyes. But of course, it also depend on each individual. I think, two gay men who holding hands in public still be looked a bit strange or not be accepted by people in Japan society.

©Makoto Takayama, Shogakukan/ Tokyo Theatres Co.,Inc., NIKKATSU CORPORATION, RIGHTS CUBE Inc., ROBOT COMMUNICATIONS INC.

inStyle Asia: Many countries in Asia actively changing about the LGBT's acceptance, for example in Thailand, boys' love movies and TV series is so popular, as well as transgender society is more open. They can work at the offices or any companies, they living in their own way. 

In Japan, there are many bl manga and novels, but the number of movies or TV  series is opposite, not many bl films and series here. Do you think Japan can break the borderline and popularizing the boys' love or LGBT's movement in abroad, or international markets?

Daishi Matsunaga: Few years ago, LGBT and gay men's drama were quite few. The films and drama with this kind of genre can expand to abroad or not is something I can't judge. But I think we should make more films and TV series about LGBT+Q and gay men, and then expand from Japan to the world. 

©Makoto Takayama, Shogakukan/ Tokyo Theatres Co.,Inc., NIKKATSU CORPORATION, RIGHTS CUBE Inc., ROBOT COMMUNICATIONS INC.

inStyle Asia: Do you think the power of the movie can make people understand LGBT situation in Japan?

Daishi Matsunaga: It may take time, but i do hope people who watched the films will   understanding more about this subject. Try to understand more is the best. But i don't know how it would be.

inStyle Asia: Many countries in Asia fighting for the equal rights and legalizing the same-sex marriage. You also said something about this in the film when the couple can't marriage legally. In abroad, LGBT is not sexual minorities but they are considering as part of society. How do you think about this in Japan?

Daishi Matsunaga: Japan is very slow, probably slowest among the developed countries in the world. Japan is running behind them. LGBT+Q people are not be accepted and not be understanding by the people who making the society, the law and the politics. Those people really don't understanding them, that means it's really need to change for our system.

inStyle Asia: What is your most favourite scene in the movie? Why you like that shot?

Daishi Matsunaga: I like the shot when Ryuta and Keisuke collected the money back. Because i can't shoot that scene again anymore. It's like the documentary film.

That kind of the moment when the actors can't do the same way again. The camera work and relative works were possibly captured at that time. It was a scene that no one knew what gonna happen, even the actors and crews didn't know what it will happen. 

inStyle Asia: How long you shot this film?

Daishi Matsunaga: 18 days. But it took around 20 days included break time and day-off and we shot last year (2021).

inStyle AsiaInternational fans also waiting to watch your film. When the film release in Japan theaters?

Daishi Matsunaga: 10th February next year (2023) in Japan.

inStyle Asia: How about your next project?

Daishi Matsunaga: I'm thinking to make different kind of film. Currently, the film industry in Japan are not quite in good condition. So, i want to make a film that work commercially in term of authorship and artistic work. Now, i'm searching for the right of this themes which work internationally as well. But it still not fixed yet.

inStyle Asia: Do you think to expand your works in Southeast Asia, in Thailand?

Daishi Matsunaga: Of course, i wanted to make the film somewhere in Thailand. 

inStyle Asia: We knew that Egoist is made based on an autobiographical novel. This novel is published only in Japan?

Daishi Matsunaga: Yes, it's already sold in Japan. 

inStyle Asia: The story in the novel also so  interesting and it probably make the audience wanted to read before or after watched your film.

Daishi Matsunaga: May be that novel have no English version. If the film is released in Thailand and when it getting popular, the novel would be translated in Thai (laughing).

InStyle Asia: Do you have any favourite Thai movies?

Daishi Matsunaga: I like Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Uncle boonmee who can recall his past" and another one "Black Tiger", a kind of old film, may be 20 years ago. It's very vivid and colorful film. 

Oh, sorry! Black Tiger is Malaysian film, not Thai film.

InStyle Asia: Last 20 years ago, there was a famous Thai movie about a transgender Thai boxer. Its title is "Beautiful Boxer", you may like this film.

Daishi Matsunaga: I didn't know that. It sounds interesting.

inStyle Asia: Thank you so much.

Currently (2022), Daishi Matsunaga (LDH Japan) often visit Thailand, to make the film for Japanese boys group BALLISTIK BOYZ from EXILE TRIBE and PSYCHIC FEVER in Thailand.

©Makoto Takayama, Shogakukan/Tokyo Theatres Co.,Inc., NIKKATSU CORPORATION, RIGHTS CUBE Inc., ROBOT COMMUNICATIONS INC.

About the film 

Synopsis: Is love an ego to save yourself, or... Based on Takayama Makoto's autobiographical novel, this film tells the story of the love between Kosuke, an editor, and Ryuta, a personal trainer.

Title: "Egoist" (エゴイスト in Japanese) - Based on an autobiographical novel "Egoist" by Makoto Takayama 

Director: Daishi Matsunaga (LDH Japan)

Cast: Ryohei Suzuki, Hio Miyazawa, Sawako Agawa.

Released date: 10th February 2023

Spoken language: Japanese 

Official Instagram: Egoist Instagram 

Official Website: Egoist Website 


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