[Interview] Ren Sudo, Actor and Director. THE KNOT Artist Support Project Vol.2: Movie “Backlit”
Jul 18, 2021
Travel to a summer around 50 years ago in Onomichi, in this summer’s brand new film Gyakko (Backlit) with actor and first-time director Ren Sudo, out soon in Hiroshima.
In both his professional life and personal life, Ren likes to face challenges head on. He does away with preconceived ideas and often leaves the audience feeling a little uneasy—in a good way. We got the chance to speak with Ren and asked about why he is so ready to challenge, what he values, and he also shared his thoughts on a somewhat dated side of his industry. He was very straightforward and easy to talk with, and almost luminescent, reminiscent of the light in the film.
https://motion-gallery.net/projects/gyakkofilm (Japanese only)
What is your idea of a truly enjoyable movie experience?
Did you know that when promoting a new film in Japan there is an unwritten rule that it must be released in Tokyo first, before other areas? No-one does it any other way.
Traditionally, the basic aim when advertising a film is to give it the best hope at becoming a box office hit, and is incredibly one-sided. For Ren though, he believes that to get enjoyment out a film the communication channels need to be opened up. An exchange of words between the creator and the audience is needed; the sharing of joys and sorrows. It’s by taking the time to make these connections between the production side and the audience side, that the true value of a film can be realized, and in turn, truly enjoyed. Because he wanted the film to be released where it was shot, the only choice was to distribute and promote the film independently.
Backlit: It’s all in a name
“We shot the film during the Covid-19 pandemic and I could definitely feel something was off; like you could feel the heaviness of the air. On the other hand, more than ever you could feel the strength of the sun on the set and the healing effect it had.”
The title also inspired an idea for a shooting technique. Light expresses itself in so many ways: it is soothing, deceitful, invisible, and can come from the evening moon. Each light is different with different colours depending on the location too. I shot the film with much respect for the light, leaving it uncredited but at the forefront of each shot.”
“I wanted to capture the ambiguity and chaos of being human”
“We all see different things depending on where the spotlight is. I like fashion, I like places with a rustic vibe. I am attracted to beautiful women but I have moments when I’m drawn to someone of the same sex too. It’s part of who we are that inside us all there are seemingly hypocritical thoughts and desires; humans are far from simple,” Ren says he loves moments like these when someone displays their different personalities all at once, and the characters in Backlit are also in tune with this idea.
Aya Watanabe, the lead writer on the film, shared that Ren is incredibly gifted at “seeing and maximizing the potential beauty in others,” which, in a curious way, elegantly explains what’s at the heart of Ren’s success.
Ren touched on how he wanted to portray a socially difficult love story. “Even if the story is about homosexuality, you can’t just portray the opposite sex in an unattractive way, the feelings are deeper than that, it’s not black and white. I wanted to show the beauty of men as men, and women as women. Human beings are inherently chaotic, and I wanted to capture this ambiguity of the of human nature from my own understanding.”
On being altruistic
When discussing his fearlessness and desire to push boundaries, he mentioned somewhat unexpectedly that he thought himself a very timid person. He added, “The moment you want to enjoy something that is hard if you’re alone, such as love, true happiness, or seeking the meaning of life, isn’t that when fear creeps in? Maybe it’s a loved one, your family, or maybe even the industry you’re in, but only when you start to live your life for someone else, you realize just how small we all really are and your fears, kind of, disappear. Only when you shoulder the burdens of someone else do you get stronger, and perhaps it’s then and only then you can be you.”
“To me, Onomichi has an orange-y hue, a warm but almost oppressive shade. I wanted the air and colors of the nature here to come together on the big screen in a way that set lighting could never reproduce.”
The film was given a slightly melancholic ending yet leaves the viewer with a pleasant, peaceful glow, reflected even long after you close your eyes.
The movie had it’s debut on Saturday July 17 at Onomichi City’s Onomichi Cinema, and will also be shown at at Hiroshima City’s Yokogawa Cinema from Thursday July 22.
To commemorate the release of Backlit, a series of events will be held until mid-August in Hiroshima City. Two such events include a talk by Ren and scriptwriter Aya Watanabe at Hiroshima TSUTAYA BOOKS and the sale and exhibition of 70s vintage clothing (the time period of the movie) and collab goods at the popular select store ref.
Take advantage of the summery July long weekend and travel around Onomochi and Hiroshima while making fun memories to make up for last year. We as THE KNOT are excited to see Ren develop as a director and encourage everyone to see his gorgeous debut film set so close by!
For more about the events, the movie, and if you’re keen to support the film, see here (Japanese only.)
Come and see for yourself how the power of interactions leads to a truly enjoyable movie experience.