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Atsushi Wada

Atsushi Wada
A little boy launches a machine that seems like a giant version of himself. The same little boy tries and fails to learn a kabuki choreography. A little girl spies on them. A dog sniffs at the air. A bird appears. The boy plays with the dog… Based on a few simple elements gradually introduced, Atsushi Wada organizes a circulation of leitmotivs that mingle, complement each other, produce new combinations. The editing starts with a detail to then reveal, as the frame widens, what elements have been reconfigured. Gradually, a merry-go- round emerges, of sexual motifs and the terrors of their birth. (Nathan Letoré)

Interview with Atsushi Wada

The film broaches many themes indirectly : early sexuality, traditional arts, nature and technology… What was the film’s starting point ?

The idea for this film goes back ten years, and started when I was watching a Japanese documentary film. In that film, children in a certain Japanese village were practicing a ceremony for the village’s traditional festival, and there was a shot of an adult next to them, watching them closely as the children danced. It didn’t look to me as if the children were enjoying this practice ; I wondered « What is this ceremony? »,and if it was a rite of passage on their way to becoming adults, and I thought « What does it mean to grow through a ceremony ? ». Important themes in this film, like what is a ceremony, or what does it mean to grow up, were decided on then.

Your film is made of certain key motifs that appear at different moments and are always subtly modified each time they appear. Could you tell us how you structured the work ?

When I was making this work, I didn’t want to discuss this theme only from the point of view of the boy who is its main character. The main themes were set, but as a story, it’s uninteresting when the point of view is unidirectional and limited to one character, and above all, in life many things are woven together in complicated ways. So I wanted to include both things that had a connection to the themes, and things that didn’t. Therefore, I put in things like the girl’s point of view and the adult’s point of view, and a bird who’s like a trickster, and a caterpillar’s shedding that symbolises growth and a creature somewhere between a tadpole and a frog scrambling in a puddle, and a dog about which I don’t know if he’s connected to the story, and constructed the tale like a puzzle from them.

When one thinks of Japan, one thinks of an archipelago rather than a peninsula. Why did you choose this title ?

This is about a rite of passage, through which children grow into adults, but I think that while they’re involved in the ceremony, they’re neither in a state of childhood nor adulthood, in a state which wavers between both childhood and adulthood, so I wanted a title that would convey this state that is neither nor. Peninsula, etymologically in Japanese, means “almost an island”, and I chose it as a title because I thought that, as something that is ambiguous, that is like an island but isn’t an island, it fits the theme.

Could you tell us about your animation technique ?

I’ve always liked Buddhist paintings, and following this influence, in my own works I draw in uniform, almost monotonous lines. As everything is drawn digitally these days, I use a tablet, with which I can customize the texture and width of the brush exactly to my liking. The themes of every one of my works are different, but throughout all of them a big theme that links them to myself is “drawing movements that feel right with a timing and rhythm that feels right”. So I pay particular attention, within the work, to the moments and movements that feel right. In the case of this film, I spent time drawing scenes like the one in which the boy strokes the bird’s neck as if to check the feathers’ texture, or when the dog spits out the mandarine that he had given it after having peeled it.

Interview by Nathan Letoré

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Technical sheet

Japan, France / 2022 / Colour / 16’

Original version : No Dialogue
Script : Atsushi Wada
Photography : Atsushi Wada
Editing : Atsushi Wada
Music : Mio Adachi
Sound : Masuma Takino
Production : Nobuaki Doi (New Deer), Emmanuel-Alain Raynal & Pierre Baussaron (Miyu Productions)
Distribution : Luce Grosjean (Miyu Distribution).
Selective Filmography : My exercise, 2022
My Marsh, 2017
Autumn from Antonio Vivaldi ‘The Four Seasons’, 2017
Anomalies, 2013
The Great Rabbit, 2011.