#7 Linda Hoaglund
Linda Hoaglund, a film director, was born and raised in Japan. Since 1996, she has subtitled 200 Japanese films whose directors include Kurosawa Akira, Oshima Nagisa, and Miyazaki Hayao. She represents Japanese directors abroad and is actively producing several film projects. Her interest in controversial issues between Japan and the USA and arts has led her produce her original documentary films, Wings of Defeat and ANPO. In our interview, we asked her about her passion to make movies and her new movie, Things Left Behind.
Interview with Linda Hoaglund
– You are one of only a few American who are familiar with both Japanese and American culture and languages. Where do you find Japanese and American virtues as an American, who was born and raised in Japan?
I grew up in rural areas of Japan such as Yamaguchi and Ehime. When I was little, I lived in a wooden house with no heater, and was immersed in traditional Japanese culture that has been preserved for centuries such as eating homemade miso and having a Japanese style bath. Therefore I have a Japanese sense of beauty rather than American one. For example, I prefer simple styles and color that most Japanese people like, and Japanese movies, whose themes are fragile life instead happy ending that American movies tend to prefer.
Japanese people are generally described as “discreet” in English. Since I was surrounded by Japanese culture since I was born, I am more comfortable with Japanese culture that cares about others and does not intervene with others too much. On the other hand, I feel that one of the drawbacks of Japanese culture is the tendency to avoid facing issues, which symbolized Showa era, and has led to the accidents at the nuclear power plants in Fukushima after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Although the USA also has a history that does not want to be known, resistance forms the basis of its history. Since the USA was built after revolutions, it is accepted that you resist society, try to change the world, and take an initiative to make something happen. I respect Martin Luther King Jr. the most in American history. I think it is because of the USA that such a person who sacrificed his own life to change the status of black people, has been admired by many people. In Japan, people who triggered the ANPO movement in the 1960s are not as respected in Japanese history as Martin Luther King, Jr. is in American history. The main reason that I directed the movie, “ANPO,” is that I especially wanted Japanese young people to know the history of resistance, which I think is beautiful. At the same time, I wanted American people to know that there are still more than 100 American military bases across Japan, and how they have influenced Japanese people’s lives for a long time.
What I want to deliver as a movie director is a little bit more complex than information broadcasted in Japan. By doing so, I would like to convey a message that Japanese people are human beings the same as Americans, and also to change the stereotypical image of Japanese women that they are only calm and beautiful just as Geisha. My recent movie “Things Left Behind” features many independent Japanese women including Ms.Miyako Ishiuchi to carry information that is contrary to what American people tend to have.
–Your debut movie, “Wings of Defeat,” describes kamikaze pilots, who attempted suicide attacks on enemy ships in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War Ⅱ. The second movie, “ANPO,” focuses on the 1960 controversy surrounding the renewal of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security – also known as ANPO. How did audiences react to these movies?
“Wings of Defeat” conveys the message from kamikaze pilots that they wanted to live the same as other young people wished. It must have been an eye-opening movie, especially to American people. I always think human beings are complicated creatures, and like to view things from different viewpoints. A renowned Japanese movie director Mr. Hayao Miyazaki, whom I used to work with as a translator, says people face black and white everyday. When he was told by the American media that it was hard to judge between right and wrong in his movies, he replied that he applied the standard of good and evil to his everyday life, and always struggled with a sense of crisis that he would be defeated by the evil. He even said that if it were hard for American people to tell right and wrong, the USA would have caused a war without a reason in 1998, which was five years before the US military attacked Iraq.