The Weald (1997)


1997 / 73 min / 16mm, 8mm, and Video

Melancholy documentary portrait of six groups of elderly people who live in the Japanese Yoshino Mountains. Kawase (successful last year in Rotterdam and Cannes with Suzaku) listened attentively to their stories without analysing their courageous lives.

Director's Statement

The Japanese title for The Weald is "Somaudo monogatari," a phrase that includes the unusual ideograph "soma." It, like the word "weald," has a nostalgic, old-fashioned ring to it.

When I asked an acquaintance how to write it, I was told it combined the character for "tree" with that for "mountain." I tried writing it myself and asked what it meant. The reply was that things relating to people who live in the mountains have generally been referred to as "soma" for ages.

That made sense. The minute I first heard and wrote this word, I fell in love with it. If you change the "tree" part of the ideograph to the character "people," it becomes "sen" or "hermit." Hermits are people who've been able to transcend everyday existence, aren't they? Now that I think about it, a long time ago I once made my mother mad pleading with her to teach me how to become a hermit.

"Somaudo" adds the ideograph for "people" to "soma." I was given a lot of hints on how to enrich life from the soma people who live in Hirao, Nishiyoshino-mura, Nara Prefecture. The accumulation of their lived days has taken root in the earth and returned to nature. Just as massive trees withstand the wind and the rain, the cold and the heat, these people endure the twists and turns of life by simply existing, developing deep wrinkles. Replacing the "facts" of the life they have spun with my own " truth, " I spin a tale in cinema, so that this may become a film that continues from the past to the present, the present to the future.

Award / Invitation

Festival del film Locarno
Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival
International Film Festival Rotterdam
Hong Kong International Film Festival
Singapore International Film Festival
and many other festivals

Crews & Productions

Directed by: Naomi Kawase
Production: KUMIE