Tokyo-born Shugo Fujii’s interest in crafting movies started when he, at the age of nine, discovered the potential of the medium by experimenting with his father’s Super 8 camera. After his graduation from Junior High, he decided to move to the United States in order to become a director. In 1998, he received a bachelor’s degree at the California Institute of arts and one year later he returned to Japan. Fujii’s career as director started in 2000 when Tsunku, the famous music producer, chose to produce his horror narrative ‘Iki-jigoku’. While Fujii’s career as suspense and horror director was going great, he became inactive in 2009 after a certain event. After 9 years, the time was right for the talented director Fuji to return to cinema.
Can you tell us a bit more about why you returned to cinema after 9 years?
Yes. I was away from film making, but it is not because I wanted too. I just had no choice. In the year of 2009, I was making a horror project titled “Senritsu-Meikyu”, but some yakuza people took over my project and kicked me out (After they kicked me out, they brought in the director Takashi Shimizu. The film turned out to be horrible). After that, I joined a couple of projects, but somehow these projects were never completed. “Red Line Crossing” was one of the projects I was willing to make together with a major studio in Japan. However, I decided not to work together with them. They asked for a different ending which was not acceptable for me. That event made me decide to make this film as an indie. Because I strongly thought that this story needs to be told as soon as possible and, above all, in the correct way. Not telling this story with a happy ending; that’s my definition of “the correct way” for Red Line Crossing.
Is the problem of bullying and negligence by teachers truly that problematic?
I believe so. Bullying and negligence by teachers are at an all-time high.
Why do you think politicians are not interested in the problem – given suicide rates and so on?
Because the bullying problems never go away and are too difficult to solve. That’s also why having an interest in these problems won’t help their election. In the end, politicians do not work for their country, but for being elected.
Surprisingly, no parents of students featured in your movie. What does that say about the position of the parents?
“Wake up! Parents! The good old school days are over. No more fantasy. There are so many fucked-up teachers and fucked-up schools. What are you going to do about it?” That is the statement I want to confront the parents with and that is why there are no parents in my movie. However, I made this film as a metaphor of the crisis in my country. The school symbolizes my country; the students the citizens, the teachers the politicians. All the teachers were named after real Japanese politicians.
You show, in a very painful way, that teachers are not trying to understand the radically different world of the students. They are preoccupied with their social image. Do you think this preoccupation is the central problem in Japanese society?
Yes. But I think this problematic preoccupation originates from a communication-problem. Teachers and students do not communicate with each other. I have two kids and I can tell you that their teachers are not talking to them. That is causing the problem. And school and society are essentially the same.
You made some interesting – and highly effective – aesthetic choices in this narrative, e.g. concerning color. Can you explain your process of making such aesthetic choices?
While all my memories are so colourful, I see the world as so dark, black and white. That’s why I decided to make the past colourful and the present dark with almost no colour. The colours for the imaginary sequence of the student Manda were defined by three things. The sequence must give the audience the impression of “pureness“,“sexual”, and ”scary”. It was really hard to find a colour that had all those essences.
The movie asks for more attention to mental health in Japanese society. Can you elaborate this?
That is something I cannot answer quickly. But anyway, I can give you a short first version of my answer. I chose not to show the face of the students in the film. While the job of the teachers is to care about their students, they only care about themselves. I think the most important thing to make a relationship functional is to communicate with each other. But there is no communication between teachers and students. That is causing mental-health problems. However this is not only true for schools. It is also true for our society as such.
What do you hope your movie can accomplish?
Well, I want people to know what is going on with the kids and how fucked up the teachers are. And if a few people are able to realize that this film is also a metaphor for our society, I feel that this hope I have can be accomplished.
Can you tell us about the locations the film was shot? How was the shooting like, any memorable episodes good or bad?
This film was shot in 5 days and nobody slept for 96 hours straight. That was a nightmare.
Can you give us some details about the casting procedure?
Actually, I run the actors agent company myself. I trained the actors for many years and cast them for “Red Line Crossing”. But there is a fact that may surprise you. The cast members are not only actors. They are also crew-members. Yes, I train them not only as actors but also as crew-members. So they act, while doing production work like production designer, assistant director, gaffer, line producer, special make-up or grip work.
What is your opinion about the Japanese movie industry at the moment?
The Japanese film industry is a disaster zone. When they make films, they only care about which celebrity will be in the film. They do not care about the quality of the story. Most producers can’t speak English, so they don’t have an interest in the global market. For that reason, not many Japanese films go international. As a consequence, they make little money outside Japan.
I sincerely hope you will keep making such socially-engaged movies. Are there already any future projects you can tell us about?
I just finished a horror film named “Gitairei”, a movie about child-abuse inspired by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It turned out to be a great film and I hope you can see it sometime this year. And I’ve just finished the shooting of a movie titled “Ankoku” (a.k.a Dark Country). This is a suspense-horror film and will be complete sometime in October. And I got another horror film that I will start shooting in the fall. But I cannot say anything about that project at this moment.