Shinoda and Iwashita Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Movie Experience: Conversation with director Masahiro Shinoda and actress Shima Iwashita; 2/27/99 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

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Background

Welcome to Berkeley. Mr. Shinoda, as a child did you go to the movies?/

The most memorable film that I saw as a child was in 1936, the Berlin Olympiad. Shinoda For me, living in a small countryside village in Gifu Prefecture, it was the first time I saw Europe, I saw the world in this film. The next major shock I received was when I was twelve years old. I had entered middle school and I saw for the first time Kurosawa's film, Sanshiro Sugata. Until then I had just been immersed in literature but it shifted my attention to films.

Ms. Iwashita, did you go to movies as a child?

My parents were actors in the Shingeki Theatre and my uncle was an actor in one of those modern Kabuki troops, the Zenshinza. So I was born in that milieu and I watched a lot of stage productions but didn't watch a lot of films as I was growing up.

Mr. Shinoda, what historical events most influenced your view of the world as you matured?

I was born in 1931, the year Japan invaded China; and I entered elementary school when the war against China became a major factor; and when I entered middle school our country went to war with your country. So I was raised on news and documentaries about the war. So films that showed the war as news and films about the war influenced me greatly.

Ms. Iwashita, in your formative years what historical events shaped your consciousness?

I was four years old when the war ended. Iwashita Usually we don't have much memory of our own from ages of two to three. But since the war was such a major experience and event I have memories of being two years old and air raid sirens going off; the horrendous loud sounds of the B-29s. And when that would happen, we would, with my parents, rush into a bomb shelter to stay through the bombings. That is a very vivid memory from a very young age.

I had the good fortune this past week to see on video your movie MacArthur's Children. Mr. Shinoda, do the experiences of the children touch on some of your own memories?

Yes, to a certain extent they did, but I was already fourteen when Japan lost the war, so it was a very tragic event for me that the U.S. forces occupied Japan. The scenario for that film was written by a poet who was six years younger than I am and for people in that age group, seeing the American occupying forces -- jeeps, tasting delicious Hershey's chocolate bars melting in their mouths -- that was all indications that there would be a wonderful bright future ahead for them. But I was thinking at that time that we were going to face some dark times in the future. So there is a mixture of that kind of optimism as well as despair and sadness that were the reactions to the end of the war.


Next page: Shinoda on Directing

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