Five questions to director Shuichi Okita


Shuichi Okita’s warm-hearted drama, Mori, The Artist’s Habitat opened Helsinki Cine Aasia on Thursday 14th March. Shuichi Okita is also visiting Helsinki Cine Aasia. “Shuichi Okita’s original, sympathetic style makes people fall in love with his films. Time after time, Okita’s works have been among the most popular films also at Helsinki Cine Aasia,” said Eija Niskanen, the festival’s programming director. “We are very excited to have him as a guest of honour at this year’s festival,” Niskanen continued.

The one remaining screening of Mori, The Artist’s Habitat at Helsinki Cine Aasia 2019 is on Saturday 16th March at 3.45pm. Following the screening there is a Q&A with the director.

What inspired you to make Mori, The Artist’s Habitat?

I got the idea for the film already when we were making the film The Woodsman and the Rain (2011). The Woodsman and the Rain was the first film in which I worked together with Tsutomu Yamazaki who plays the lead character in Mori, The Artist’s Habitat. We shot The Woodsman and the Rain in Tsukechi. Tsukechi is also where Morikazu Kumagai was born and there is an art museum there, dedicated to his works. One day Tsutomu Yamazaki, who is a great admirer of Morikazu Kumagai’s work, took me to the museum to see his paintings. Before then, I did not know about him or his work, but I got the idea for the film when we visited the museum. It was also important to me to get Tsutomu Yamazaki to play his idol in the film.

Which film-makers do you admire the most?

Of Japanese directors, I have been greatly influenced among others by Morita Yoshimitsu whose film The Family Game (1983) made me fall in love with film. Another director who has made an impression on me is Itami Juzo who made a lot of films with Tsutomu Yamazaki when I was young. I have been a Tsutomu Yamazaki fan also from the young age! I also like films by Aki Kaurismäki. Of his films, my favourites are The Man Without A Past and Leningrad Cowboys Go America.

Which film did you see last?

I am not sure if I should say this but the film I saw last was Ready Player One! I saw it on the plane on the way to Helsinki. It was very interesting. Watching it, two hours of the flight just flew by.

What does the future hold for you?

I am already plotting my next film. It is going to be a story of a young, teenage girl who goes to meet his father over the summer holidays. The father turns out to be quite a surprising character! We are talking comedy here. We will begin shooting it in the summer. When it is ready, I hope it will be screened also at Helsinki Cine Aasia! I would love to be back.

What films from the Helsinki Cine Aasia 2019 programme your would recommend?

There are several good Japanese films in the programme. For example, One Cut of the Dead has been a big hit in Japan. The director of Dare to Stop Us Kazuya Shiraishi is a friend of mine. I have not yet seen the film Complicity by Kei Chikaura but I would love to use this opportunity and see it here at Helsinki Cine Aasia. Another film that I am definitely going to see here is the film They Sing Up On The Hill by your other guest Bat-Amgalan Lkhagvajav.