Director Kensaku Kakimoto on creating an emotionally charged film detailing one remote family’s battle with Covid-19
Believe it or not but there are actually countries out there that have not been hit by Covid-19. 12 of them at last count. Most of which are somewhat remote and have relatively small populations. Drawing inspiration from the remote part, director Kensaku Kakimoto worked on a series of films to explore ‘love in the time of Covid’.
This love takes many different forms and in Snowdrop Flower it is the familial bond between a group of five in the countryside of Mongolia that piqued our interest. The end result is a short film that is as touching as it is heartbreaking while providing food for thought for us quarantining in relative luxury in the western world.
LBB’s Natasha Patel speaks to Kensaku to find out about Snowdrop Flower and just why he chose to tell this story in such a way.
LBB> Where did the idea for Snowdrop Flower first begin?
Kensaku> It was when I traveled to Mongolia five years ago. I could never forget the endless horizon. At that time, I enjoyed goat soup in the home of a family that I visited. I also had blood soup. According to them, on the day when an important guest came, they would kill the domestic goat and serve it to the guest. I got the life of a goat that they had lived just before and I realized that I was alive. I got the idea of this story from this experience.
LBB> When you were planning shooting, what did you have to take into consideration?
Kensaku> It was the second half of April. It was time for us, the film industry, to make a big change. Up until then, many staff members have gathered and filmed, but we are no longer able to do so. It was about that time that a new production process, remote filming and remote editing, were about to begin. I wanted to make films remotely in places where I couldn't do remote shooting easily, but where I have visited on my travels so far.
LBB> The film is about Covid-19 and the way the family copes, but how did you film during the pandemic?
Kensaku> We filmed in accordance with the guidelines established in each country. We maintained thorough physical condition management, disinfection, and social distance.
Remote shooting requires the environment and equipment associated with it to be so. Also, if you don't do the most important thing as a person and trust the other party, I think that it is harder to establish. If I am not grown up [about it], it won't work. I felt that part was the most challenging point.
LBB> It’s interesting that the story is about the family who are unaware of the pandemic, but the mother contracts the disease. Why did you choose such a remote family to tell this story?
Kensaku> At the beginning of the film, father and mother are back from town. There is a hint there. For many people, we thought we were fine before it became a pandemic. There was a reluctant feeling that it had nothing to do with us. It's not just them, but our country has an equally less-alert feeling. It is natural for human beings to think so, and it is natural that there is absurdity because of it. I wanted to express that absurdity.
LBB> The conversation and relationship between the two brothers is so touching so that in a way the story is more about them than their sick mother. Is this what you wanted?
Kensaku> Exactly. In this pandemic environment, the actions and sorrows of the brothers will grow themselves. What happened to the family was a tragedy, but as a result, the brothers grew stronger.
LBB> It looks like the mother dies at the end of the film, is this what you intended and if so, why?
Kensaku> I wrote the mother as dead in the story, but at the end father brings an ambulance, which gives to viewers a little hope. I decided to leave it to the viewer.
In my mind, the theme is absurdity and truth in this world. And they are connected by invisible threads (yarns). In Japan, we have the word "EN". “EN” carries the meaning of fate, or, serendipity. In other contexts, it can mean connection, relationship or tie. The people I have met and the landscapes I have come across on my travels have led to irreplaceable experiences. While it may be pure coincidence, it seems more like destiny.
I know that it's at such times that it may be better to make something bright and exciting. However, from my point of view, the truth that exists in this world is actually absurd.
It's invisible, and I usually make films with the idea of the invisible and bring the truth of the visible to the world. It's a mystery because it's invisible, but I think the truth is in that mystery.
People tend to believe what they think is right is how the system works, or that the truth can be calculated and proved. However, the fact that I mentioned earlier is that nobody can calculate and find answers, even world-top-class mathematicians and physicists. These are invisible, but as a result, it's definitely affecting something, and it will create the future ahead. I think Covid-19 clarified that.
Absolutely right things such as helping someone can be bad things for someone. In an absurd world like this, such events and encounters are destined, such as the return of nature, warmth that occurs in really important human relationships, how to use time, limited life, etc. It will lead to the concept of "EN". In that sense, the death that occurred in this story is a sadness, but it is truly mysterious and inevitable.
LBB> What made you settle on Mongolia as the location for Snowdrop Flower?
Kensaku> The experience of traveling in Mongolia has a big influence making this story. During the trip, I took a photo of a family before the sun rose early in the morning. The air was clear and it was a pink sky. After all, I was inspired by the beautiful family. Even for such a beautiful family, the virus gives fate a choice. I wanted to express such a grand scale of absurdity.
LBB> Lastly, how did you get all of those goats?
Kensaku> All the goats (about 500) are owned by the family of the actor who played the father in the film.