Mac on Tokyo: Anne Fehres
Filmmaker Anne Fehres is currently participating in the artist-in-residence program at 3331 Arts Chiyoda in Tokyo, known as AIR 3331. In advance of the premier of her new film ‘Sakura: An Archetypal Journey’ we caught up with her to discuss her journey to The World’s Greatest Metropolis and the making of this important film.
Maction Planet: Hi Anne. Welcome to Maction Planet. Congratulations on the completion of your film project!
Anne Fehres: Thanks Mac for the opportunity to share more about my latest project, Sakura: An Archetypal Journey.
MP: Tell us a bit about your background?
AF: I’m a filmmaker from The Netherlands. I studied film at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium. After my graduation in 2013, I started working as a freelancer in different departments. I have served in the roles of Producer, Director, Editor, Researcher, DOP, as well as working as a film programmer. Two years ago I travelled around Japan and got very inspired by Japanese culture. This trip was the beginning of my research for the film I’m making right now.
Fast forward to now and I’m currently in Japan creating Sakura: An Archetypal Journey through the AIR 3331 Arts Chiyoda program in Tokyo.
MP: How did you end up in Tokyo?
AF: Since my visit to Tokyo two years ago, I have been looking for an artist residency where I would be able to develop my project. I found the 3331 Arts Chiyoda residence program and applied last year. And now I’m here working on the film that started life two years ago! I love being in Tokyo, it is a multilayered, eclectic, and syncretic city and everyday brings inspiration and surprises. A perfect place to be as an artist, but for everybody else as well.
MP: What was the genesis of the ideas for Sakura?
AF: My curiosity about Japanese culture. I have always had an interest in Japan, but until two years ago it was only an image I had of a country called Japan. Japan was a very enigmatic country to me. I wanted to learn more about Japan and her rich culture. The film I’m making right now is about that discovery. Central to this journey is the film’s use of Japan’s iconic cherry blossom, used as a metaphor for life itself, something beautifully ephemeral.
MP: I recently wrote a piece for our blog about the current Sakura Sakura Sakura exhibition at the Yamatane Museum of Art. It made me realise that sakura is one of the longest used floral motifs in Japanese art. What new treatment do you hope to bring to this cultural trope?
AF: The time of the cherry blossoms, sakura, is evocative of new beginnings in all walks of life. Sakura, queen cherry blossom, the icon of Japan, is not only admired because of her beauty but because of the philosophy behind her presence. In the West people tend to think that flowers in full bloom are most the beautiful, but not when withered. In Japan people are aware of the beauty of full blossoms but are more touched and deeply moved when these blossoms are falling or beginning to wilt. It is connected to feelings of regret for things losing their beauty and paradoxically finding beauty in their opposite. In my film I show a perspective on the philosophy behind the iconic sakura.
MP: What has been the most challenging part of making Sakura?
AF: Communication. The language barrier. Unfortunately I don’t speak Japanese and this makes it hard sometimes, especially when you work in a country where the language is so much a part of the culture. In the future I want to learn the language. During my research for the film I have learned a lot of terms pertaining to Japanese culture, like attitudes and etiquette, that helped in the communication but that is not enough.
MP: Sakura is part of an ambitious project. Where is next?
AF: Sakura is one in a series of four essay-films, each of which focuses on a season in a different country. The series, moving between the four seasons, will create a narrative around the idea of the ‘circle of life’. After finishing this project I’ll start the research for my next film for the next season, summer, this will be in a country that has a deep connection with a special icon of summer. Around this icon I’ll create a new film.
MP: How have you enjoyed living in Tokyo?
AF: Every day is a new adventure living in Tokyo. I met amazing people and have learned a lot about Japanese culture and also new aspects of myself. I enjoy sitting in the train and seeing the landscape change. Visiting parks in Tokyo and seeing people enjoying their time in company surrounded by sakura. Trying new food. You can find so much good food, that is an adventure itself. I’m feeling more healthy living here than in other countries. Daily life in Tokyo is inspiring me all the time. But the best bit is my chance to grow as a person and filmmaker. To have the opportunity to create the film that is directly related to the place where I am living in.
MP: What are your favourite parts of Tokyo?
AF: The atmosphere in the neighborhoods Koenji and Shimokitazawa is vibrant. A lot of young, trendy, people but totally different than the popular neighborhoods Shibuya or Harajuku. I would say less commercial and are very unique places in Tokyo, very appreciated by locals. Small, nice, well-priced vintage shops.
MP: Thank you for joining us Anne. All the best for the upcoming screening!
Anne Fehres’ film Sakura: An Archetypal will be screened on the 6th of April at 3331 Arts Chiyoda 2F, 6-11-14 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo. Screenings are held every 30 minutes between 18:00 – 20:30. Entrance is free and all are welcome.
Follow Anne on her website www.annefehres.com