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DEMOLITION GIRL places a coming-of-age story against the backdrop of the sketchy world of fetish videos.

At
Japan Cuts 2019, LMD had an exclusive chat with Director Matsugami Genta and Kitai Aya, who has a standout performance as the troubled teen who will either crush or be crushed.

Dig it
!

 

DEMOLITION GIRL

Director Matsugami Genta and Actress Kitai Aya

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  I understand that you made DEMOLITION GIRL as a response to a feeling of depression particularly amongst teenagers in Japan, currently. 

Iím curious what it was in your consciousness that sparked the idea to tell a story about a young woman fighting on and never giving up through film?

Matsugami Genta:  So, yes, I do feel a sort of an unfairness within the world today.  And I feel that especially women can become a victim of the society we live in.  I think itís true, perhaps all over the world, but I feel it very much in Japan.  Especially related to the way we value women within society, and the value systems we work within. 

And so, sometimes, when women are saying what is right, they are still criticised for saying some of the things they are actually thinking, and seeing that, I think that thereís something wrong with society, and so, I wanted to counter these narratives, and wanted to depict women who fight back.

 

LMD:  I think with Kitai-san playing Cocoa, you picked a good woman to fight back.

MG:  Thatís what I think, as well.

 

LMD:  How did the fetish video aspect come in?

MG:  These videos are something that I actually didnít know about:  It was just through a friend in conversation that I learned about these videos that exist online.  I was surprised that they exist. 

But separate from that, when I was talking about making this film, I knew that it wouldnít be interesting just depicting a high school girl who was working very hard, and I needed something else.  So, this act of crushing things; I thought I could link it with this idea of destroying something within society, and so these two came together within the film.

But it doesnít mean that I like these fetish videos!

 

LMD:  I will make sure thereís a clear disclaimer in this interview.

MG:  Thank you very much.

 

LMD:  Why was it such a big deal when Cocoaís role in these videos was discovered at school?  As she told her friends, she didnít take off her clothes, or do anything sexual.  The teachers even start that scene by saying they knew she was poor, but they still took away her chance for her to get out of the poverty that led her to do the videos in the first place? 

Was that a comment on school bureaucracy?

MG:  Yes, I think.  But even beyond that, I am trying to point towards this adult society that I want to depict; whether that these contradictions that exist, and also -- perhaps more so -- the unfairness that exists in society.  So, I had that in the forefront of my mind when I was writing this.  But I do believe that in Japanese schools, if this were to really happen, that this is actually the way they would treat a student.

Regarding students and schools, I do believe that Japanese schools, and Japanese society, at large, often care a lot about appearances, and also rules, and that can be a good and bad thing at times; but I think those kind of things come into play, and itís not necessarily logical.

 

LMD:  With regard to her family: She knew what her family was; that they are lazy and scamming.  She also found out her father stole all the inheritance her mother left for Cocoa to go to college.  We see that Cocoa is normally very smart, but why did she put so much trust in such utterly untrustworthy people?

Kitai Aya:  Perhaps Japanese families are maybe like that?.

MG:  You know, I think families are not so simple: You canít just hate someone for doing bad things, or for being bad.  Perhaps this is just not limited to Japanese families; you canít just go ahead and hate people.  This is something that is sort of difficult to put into words, itís sort of an experiential thing; but I think family is a lot more complicated in that way.

KA:  In terms of when I was acting Cocoa as a character, I was thinking about how perhaps this family has a past; a past that has brought them together in some way.  So, those are things that I had in mind when I was acting her role.

MG:  In terms of directing, and also the acting, I think it could be easy to depict the brother and father as very plain evil characters.  I couldíve gone further with it, but I wanted to include a humanness, including humour, and to have them sort of have these endearing moments in order to not depict them as just plain evil, but as people with some humanness within them.  That was something that I kept in mind, throughout.

 

LMD:  I love the relationship Cocoa has with her two girlfriends.  Oftentimes, movie characters who are on the outs of society, or impoverished, are depicted as loners with no friends.  

It was refreshing that she had friends who clearly adore her, even if they donít understand what sheís going through, and canít really do much to help her.  What was the idea around creating that support net?

MG:  First of all, as the director, I just want to say that I think because Cocoaís character really doesnít have a place to go within her house, and at school, to me, it was very important to have her have a place of refuge, and that was in her friends.  I thought to depict her as having no place at all, would simply be too sad. 

Personally, myself, I have been helped by my friends, so I was bringing that experience into it.  I think especially during your adolescence, more so than the adults, or other parents, or teachers around us, at least in my experience, friends were very important in my adolescent youth.  And as I got older, things may change a little bit, but I wanted to depict Cocoa in this way, to have friends who were helping her.

 

LMD:  Regarding Cocoaís relationship with her friends, Kitai-san, please tell us how you went about forming the bonds with the other two actresses that we see so clearly on screen?

KA:  So, when we first met, the three of us, we went in, and it was just around lunch time, and the director came up to us and gave us $50, and said, ďGo eat lunch together.Ē  So, we all went out to eat, and we really started talking.  Given that we were all close in age, and some of us knew of each other, even though we had never met, we recognised faces, and I believe that as a younger person, itís not that difficult to become friendly with people, so, we just had a lot of fun talking with each other.

 

LMD:  Kitai-san, often an actor needs to find something in common with a character to depict them well.  What did you have in common with Cocoa that allowed you to embody her?  What was the most challenging aspect of playing Cocoa?

KA:  I actually feel that almost all the aspects in Cocoa is very different from myself.  I believe that I am not as sturdy of a character as she is.  I donít think Iím as strong-willed, and her will to keep on fighting is something that I very much respect in her, but it is also something that I find different from myself.

But in terms of something that perhaps she and I share, is the idea of thinking that people around me could always be an enemy. {To Director Matsugami} Donít you think that is true? {Laughs}

MG:  Yes, that is true.

 

LMD:  Did the crushing actually help her in the way?  Was it cathartic?  Iím curious as to the way it might relate to the crucial moment when she faces off against the gangsters.  What gave her the strength to stand up to those scary men?

KA:  This is the first time anyoneís asked me this, but I think that perhaps because she had nothing to lose that she was able to be strong.  She doesnít really have hope at this point.  When sheís confronted with the yakuza, sheís lost everything, and she has nothing to lose.  In that way, I think she is able to say, ĎI can do whatever at this point, because thereís nothing for me to lose.í

MG:  At that point, she has no money, sheís sort of thinking, ĎWhatever.í  The yakuza character really is, for me, an example of a bad adult; and so, to be thinking that, íOh, sheís now also going to be crushed by this guy, as well,í I think at that point, perhaps Cocoaís character still had that will to say that Iím not gonna stand for this.

KA:  Perhaps thereís this feeling of adults are all shitty.  And also feeling this hurt, and feeling no hope, and saying sort of, ĎFuck adults.í  Also, Kazuoís character is also a bad adult, in a way, however, there is something also endearing about him. 

MG:  He is just stupid. {Laughs}

 

LMD:  After everything she goes through in the film, and facing down the yakuza, Cocoa proclaims, ďIím going to do things in my own way.Ē  What does that mean?  What is she going to do?

MG:  So, the thing is, after the film is over, the best case scenario for me is whoever is watching it sort of imagines what Cocoa might be doing afterwards.  However, for myself, I understand that nothing is really resolved in the ending.  Thereís not much hope beyond that, necessarily. 

And so, I do believe that perhaps she continues to have sort of a hard life beyond the ending, but what I also think, is that she has herself: She understood at this point that she has herself; she knows who she is, and that is a strength of hers.  So, perhaps it would be fun to make something like a sequel for her?

KA:  Perhaps the sequel title is Cocoa Becomes A Nighttime Butterfly.

MG:  Perhaps in Las Vegas. {Laughs}

 

LMD:  Do you have any upcoming projects?

KA:  I have a few projects, but Iím actually not allowed to say. {Laughs}

MG:  The next film that Iím working on is a fiction film that is set in Fukushima, where the nuclear incident happened.  Itís been almost 10 years, and so I feel that itís about time that this idea can be depicted through fiction.
 

~The Lady Miz Diva

July 22nd, 2019

 

 

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