Yosuke Fujita: ‘I am interested in loneliness as a theme for my work’

FUJITA

FUJITA Yosuke (1963) made several documentary films and shorts before finally directing his feature debut in 2008 (“Fine, Totally Fine”, winner of the Audience Award at CAMERA JAPAN). His latest film, Fuku-chan of FukuFuku Flats, is yet to premiere in Japan but is already playing at several European festivals.

It tells the story of Fuku-chan, a chubby guy who invokes trust in everyone he meets with his positive, calm attitude. But behind his cheerful smile lies an old childhood trauma, which reemerges when he meets a woman from his past. We chatted with FUJITA Yosuke about his latest film and his first impressions of Rotterdam.

Photography © Pamela van Gelderen | Harp Photo

Fuku-chan is played by the famous female comedian OSHIMA Miyuki. Did you write the script with her in mind?
‘Yes, I did. I could not have made Fuku-chan without Oshima. I knew her work and she has played sketches as a man before. I asked her to star in my film, and she said yes. She contributed to the script and we shaped the character of Fuku-chan together. Oshima tends to put a lot of herself into the characters she plays, and Fuku-chan is therefore partly based on her experiences. When Oshima was younger, she was bullied because of her appearance, just like Fuku-chan. No other actor could have portrayed Fuku-Chan the way Oshima did.’

What did you have to do to make her look like a man?
‘Oshima shaved her hair and gained a lot of weight. Before we started filming, she had actually participated in a TV-contest in which Japanese stars run a double marathon. Oshima had lost a lot of weight during that contest, and for the first time in her life she was having a slimmer and more athletic figure. Playing Fuku-chan meant she had to get back to square one. She gained another 10 kilos, which was both physically and psychologically a big challenge.’



How did people react to you casting her as a male character?
‘At first, people were very critical about my idea of having a woman act a male character. They said it worked fine for short comic sketches, but didn’t believe it would work for a 2-hour story. That made me a bit insecure, but I continued with my plan anyway. Eventually I got many good reactions, so that was a positive surprise after all.”

Many of the characters in Fuku-chan are lonely and looking for acceptance. Why did you make a film around this theme?
‘I was already interested in loneliness as a theme for my work. I want to show the sadness of it, without making it too heavy. Fuku-chan and his ‘loser’ friends have some sort of deviant behavior, but I wanted to make them likable despite their peculiarities. As a viewer, you should be able to identify with their struggle and to be able to laugh about it as well.’

In 2008 you won the CAMERA JAPAN audience award for your movie Fine, Totally Fine. How do you feel about being in Rotterdam this time and having another film screened here?
‘I couldn’t be here in 2008, but I’m glad to be at the festival this year. This is actually my first time in the Netherlands! I just arrived yesterday evening. I had a short chance of seeing the Rotterdam skyline by night. Today I made a walking tour and really enjoyed that. The festival organization offered me a Dutch treat (licorice). I tried a small bite of course, but I have to be honest: I couldn’t eat the whole piece!’

Published October 3rd, 2014 on http://camerajapan.nl/2014/10/03/interview-fujita-yosuke-director-of-fuku-chan-of-fukufuku-flats/