NipPop @FEFF18: Talking about ‘The Kōdai family’

At the eighteenth edition of Udine's Far East Film Festival we had the chance to attend the Panel Press dedicated to Hijikata Masato's The Kōdai Family (Kōdaike no hitobito 高台家の人々), who also had its world premiere at the festival. Mark Schilling, curator for the Japanese section of the Festival, introduced the talk along with main actor Saitō Takumi and producer Nishihara Megumi.

Mark Schilling: The film had its world premiere here in Udine, which I consider a great privilege; just like having here our guests Saitō Takumi and Nishihara Megumi. First question is for Saitō: you played a variety of roles in Japan, but this one role is fairly different than all previous ones. How did you approach it?

Saitō Takumi: playing a kind of Japanese prince charming has been a challenge. So far I mostly interpreted characters who either killed or ended up killed, would end up mixed up in adultery and so on. So, this new 'princely' role really was a test for me. When the film screened I forgot to introduce the producer, Nishihara-san. Some assume she's my wife or a relative of mine, but it isn't so. Regardless, she is a talented producer and actress.

The main character is something of a brooding person, since he has to deal with having telekinetic powers for all of his strange and unusual life. One could say he's kind of a sad character. Suddenly he meets a beautiful woman, pure of heart, who brings color back into his life. For us, who worked on the film, it really feels like an intense story. If I met a girl that pure, not only outside but also inside, I would never leave her and would do anything to keep her by my side.

MS: a question for Nishihara-san: considering you're the producer, how did casting go?

Nishihara Megumi: I must admit Saitō has mostly portrayed sex symbols so far, and Kōdai Mitsumasa is a very different kind of character. Working with an actor of his caliber hasn't been difficult at all, and I really don't think there is any other actor in Japan as brilliant as Saitō.

ST: I would also like to add that, in order to be selected, I had to shell out a lot of money. Of course it's a joke.

MS: Saitō, do you have a model in mind, when you work on these kinds of characters?

ST: I didn't know if a character similar to mine had been performed before, so I did some Internet research to get an idea of how I could portray him, also confronting myself with the younger generations. I searched a lot on social media, and it was actually helpful not seeing the people in front of me, just reading their words.

MS: who's you favorite Japanese director? Who would you like to work with? A comedy, or a more gritty role?

ST: My favorite Italian director is Sorrentino, and I would like to work with him at some point. As far as Japan goes, a dream of mine is to see only my name in the closing credits, as director, artistic director, actor, screenwriter and so on. Actually, my dream is to take a pic of these credits with my iPhone. I already have an idea for this project, it's set in the ice age and all the celebrities survive thanks to their boys, while the regular folk is forced to live underground. I got this idea yesterday.