SxSW 2022 Interview – OMOIYARI: A SONG FILM BY KISHI BASHI director Kaoru Ishibashi

What are you doing Monday at 5:45pm or Friday at 2:45? Dinner not till 8? perfect. You should come to my movie about music, history, and Asian identity, blended together like your grandma’s best Easter meringue. This film will reinvigorate your connection to humanity and leave you hungry just in time for that casual business dinner that awaits.” Filmmaker Kaoru Ishibashi on OMOIYARI: A SONG FILM BY KISHI BASHI which screens at SxSW 2022 Film.

Welcome to SxSW! Is this your first SxSW experience? Are you attending in person or doing the virtual fest?

In person! I’m a musician, so i know the chaos of the music part very well, but I’ve never attended the film part, which I’m very excited about!

How did this whole project come together? Give me a rundown from the preparation to execution to now!

I approached my co-director, Justin Taylor Smith, with an idea to film violin improvisations at Japanese American Incarceration sites, or internment camps. We started interviewing people along the way in what might have been a short film about this history, when we realized that that there was a larger contemporary message to tell. Three years later, we had a two hour cut that we struggled to cut down!

While working on a project, what’s your creative process?

Most of this was very exploratory doc filmmaking.  I would propose ideas of what interested me or what I thought was connected to the themes of incarceration, marginalization, and oppression. We would chose events or locations, and then go and play music and interview historians, politicians, and regular people. Many of the scenes were all framed around a concert or musical performance. 

What was your biggest challenge with creating this feature, and what was the moment where you realized “Yes, this is IT!”?

We realized early on that we had an exciting film, but it was very difficult to figure out a good balance between the music doc and the history doc aspects of it. We had been working on the edit for almost 2 years, trying to find balance, but when SXSW accepted our rough cut, we realized that “Yes, this is IT!”, the time to just finish this movie as best we can.  

I am a tech person, so I would love to know about the visual design of the movie from the cameras to the formats used and how it was made from a technical standpoint!

I didn’t pick up a single camera for this movie, so I relied on my co-director Justin Taylor Smith, who is an excellent cinematographer and drone pilot, and our DP Max Ritter, to set up the scenes and get the best shots! but this is what they used; RED Epic-X, RED Gemini, RED Dragon and LUMIX S1 with Zeiss Super Speed Mark III, Contax Zeiss Primes and Angenieux Optimo Zooms.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW?

I’m excited for people to see what I’ve been talking about for over 4 years! We put so much heart and sweat into this, it’ll great to see if people can feel that effort and also for them to have as much as a transformative experience that I did in making it and learning about American history.

Where is this title going next? More festivals or a theatrical or streaming release?

We are confirmed at Mountain Film and DisOrient Film Festival, and we are hoping for more and ultimately a distributor that will help bring this film to everybody who can’t come to a festival. 

What is the one thing that you would say to someone who is wishing to get into making movies, especially now as the world is changing at such a fast pace?

Making a film is a daunting but rewarding experience. Even though social media content is getting shorter and shorter, long form films are still a work of art that takes discipline and perseverance, but the rewards are in that they will have a deeper impact of viewers because they have immerse their minds into your story for so long.

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

This is my first film festival! My favorite movie of all time is STARSHIP TROOPERS. “The only good bug is a dead bug.”

This film and many others like it will be showing at South By Southwest taking place March 11-20. For more information point your browser to!

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