CLOSE-KNIT, a new film from director Naoko Ogigami, does something that Japanese cinema has not really done, addressed transgendered issues in a positive way. It tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who moves in with her uncle and her transgendered girlfriend and how they become a family. The film has been garnering much attention around the world, playing at film festivals to sold-out audiences, including the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival where it had four sold-out screenings. DIMSUM got the chance to ask Ogigami some questions about the film.
Dim SUM: In another interview of yours, you said that it was a true story you happened to read, which talks about a mother making a set of breasts for her transgender teenage child, that has inspired you to make this film. We are curious to know how did you develop the film script afterwards? Where did all those refined details come from?
Ogigam: I read an article regarding a mother who ‘gave’ a pair of fake breasts to her son. And I was so moved by this article. I contacted the mother and got to know more about the story and adapted it as the core of the film script.
I then came across a book about a gay couple (Arne & Carlos) teaching knitting skills in a bookstore. One of the photos caught my eyes and I thought that the scene was really cool so I put it into my movie also.
Dim SUM: Was the casting process a smooth one? Did it take you a lot of time to find and to convince the actors or their agencies?
Ogigam: To be honest, I thought Ikuta Toma might reject taking the role. And so it was so surprising that he accepted it and even Johnny & Associates supported him to take this challenging role.
Dim SUM: All the actors in CLOSE-KNIT have been so remarkable, especially the two children Kakihara Rinka (Tomo) and Komie Kaito (Kai). How did you guide them through?
Ogigam: Both of them had outstanding performance during the casting. With proper guidance, they understood their roles well. Sometimes, we required them to do the scene again and again to get the perfect one.
Dim SUM: CLOSE-KNIT was very well received in Hong Kong when it was screened during the 28th Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, even though the city is not particularly advanced on LGBT+ issues. It is very successful in the sense that it does help raise awareness and has generated many discussions about the situation and difficulties of Trans people in society. Could you please tell us how was the film received in Japan?
Ogigam: Many audiences crowded to watch the movie in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. And the response was quite good and positive. However, audiences in some cities could not accept this agenda and refused to watch the film in theatre. Even though many “transforming” or “cosplay” artists were easy to find in television programmes, I could feel that society was still not quite open to this issue.
Dim SUM: A significant part of CLOSE-KNIT also talks about aged care. Is it another serious social challenge Japanese people are facing?
Ogigam: We prepared good facilities and equipment for the aged care home in the movie. But in reality, the facilities were not that good.