On the first day of CAMERA JAPAN we welcomed the crew of And the Mud Ship Sails Away, a surreal slacker comedy about good-for-nothing Takashi, whose life revolves around playing pachinko, bowling and watching tv. Director WATANABE Hirobumi (1982), who had brought with him his brother, cameraman and even his parents, sat down in LantarenVenster to talk about his film. And to drink some La Chouffe.

You just arrived from London where you attended the Raindance film festival. How was that experience?
‘I am a really big fan of The Beatles, so we weren’t in London a lot. Mostly in Liverpool (laughs). So far the film has been shown in Finland, Germany and England, and what I noticed is that in every country people respond differently. For example: in Germany people laughed the loudest. But for a comedy I don’t think it’s important that it makes people laugh. In Engeland the audience was really quiet, but after the screening many people came to talk to me about the film.’

And the Mud Ship Sails Away is somewhat of a family affair. Your brother composed the music and did the production, and even your grandmother stars in it.
‘It was not my plan for it to be a family project. But because it was such a small film – we only had four actors for example – I was very much depending on family and friends.’

Sadly your grandmother could not travel with you.
‘Yes that is sad. But she is already 97 years old. We did explain to here that the film was being shown abroad in many countries and that lots of people were going to watch here. And she liked that.’

What did she think of the film?
‘She is still wondering why she is actually in it (laughs).’

In the film she is always surrounded by her lazy grandson Takashi.
‘I based Takashi on my own life. Of course I added lots of fictional elements, but the film is quite autobiographical.’

But you can never be as lazy as Takashi. Otherwise you would have never been able to make a film.
‘I would describe myself as someone who has no skills and therefore does nothing. I pretty much lack any kind of motivation, except when it comes to making films. And that passion for film is what keeps me active.’

It must have been extra hard to make And the Mud Ship Sails Away then, as you had almost no financing.
To finance the film I first worked for 1,5 years as a sort of repairman at a swimming pool. All the money I made with that job I put into the film. And besides that, everyone that worked on the film scraped bits of money and equipment together.’

In an earlier interview you said that the film is about ‘nothingness’.
‘For me the film is about a person who is living on the edge of society. Takashi is almost vanishing into nothing, as he plays no role in society. But still he has some sort of a drive to keep living, like every human being.’

And for you that drive is making films.
‘I often talk with my brother about why we want to make films. We don’t want fame or money. But the pure love for film, that’s what keeps us going.