Directed and produced by the talented Tatsuki Imaji, “10424” raises awareness on lack of animal shelters in Japan, where more than ten thousand dogs are being culled each year. The film is an official selection of the International Filmmaker Festival of New York and it will screen on Sunday, May 27, 2018 at 4:30 pm, Producers Club Theaters (358 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036).
Tatsuki Imaji was born in 1994 in Japan’s previous capital Kyoto. Though Kyoto is a well-known city, Imaji spent the years of his childhood in the smallest prefecture in country, Kagawa. Living in a largely obscure town on Shikoku Island down south of Honshu (Japan’s main island), Imaji packed his bags for college to attend Tokyo University of Science.
Feeling uninspired his first two years of school, he dropped everything to pursue a year of study abroad in Toronto, Canada. There he met his host father who is a professor in the arts at Humber College. It was he who inspired Imaji to attend art school. Upon his return to Japan, he entered his hometowns local “Sanuki Film Festival,” to try his hand at film. After positive reception to his amateur work, Imaji decided to take the plunge and transfer to Nihon University entering Japan’s top ranked school in film.
Meet the Artist: NY Elite Interview with Tatsuki Imaji
NY Elite: Congratulations on being an official selection at the prestigious International Filmmaker Festival of New York. What are your thoughts about being accepted at IFFNY 2018 film festival and having your film screen in New York City?
Tatsuki Imaji: I am overjoyed that my film was able to break into a film festival internationally, and in one of the biggest centers for art and culture, New York City. My work handles a social problem being faced in Japan, but this opportunity being given to me allows for the chance for this issue to be seen on a much larger (and international) scale. It is my hope that many people have the chance to view my film.
NY Elite: Out of the 500 submissions world-wide, your film was selected as the top 40 for IFFNY. What does this mean for you in terms of representing your country/city at this international film competition?
Tatsuki Imaji: The fact that my film is specifically about dogs being killed in Japan is almost beside the point. The problem at hand is one shared by many countries, and the chance to reveal what is happening in Japan is one that will invite people to think more deeply about this issue. Dogs around the world deserve a voice, and the ones here who lost their lives in Japan hopefully can speak universally for all dogs around the world facing a similar fate. Some might be analytical of whether or not my work can be considered a “short documentary” due to the unique way my film presents this concept, but I am glad to be evaluated as such regardless.
NY Elite: With what project are you partaking at IFFNY 2018? What is it about?
Tatsuki Imaji: The title of my work is “10424,” which is in reference to the number of dogs put down within Japan’s dog pound system in the year 2016. Annually, over 10,000 dogs are being killed via carbon dioxide suffocation and the burning of their remains in an incinerator. The reality of dogs being slaughtered in this way is covered up by the pet shop industry.
They channel in on the fact pets are regarded as a family members to many, and target customers by overwhelming them with emotions of affinity and cuteness to coerce them into purchasing these animals. While this takes place, people are ignoring the fact that the dogs who are unsold, will be cycled into the grim fate awaiting them inside Japan’s “dog shelters.” To make matters worse, the dogs that are managed to be sold, are often later released to the custody of these facilities, because consumers are attempting to escape the responsibilities they gained upon the transaction of their impulsive purchase.
Currently in Japan, very few shelters will actually house dogs for the remainder of their lives. No government system is in place to provide any form of support for this situation, so the slaughtering of dogs in Japan has been institutionalized as a natural consequence. Dogs kept over one or two weeks will face their death if they are not adopted. Dog adoption is at an all-time low, and it is important to show this reality in a way that appeals to the awareness of the audience. Through this work, people cannot remain ignorant and continue to unconsciously avoid the situation any longer. That is what my film deals with.
NY Elite: Who else is involved in the making of this project? Tell us a little bit more about the story and who is in it.
Tatsuki Imaji: The directing, filming, editing, and production of this film was all done by me alone. With that said though, receiving permission and access to the sites I needed to film in was another obstacle entirely. I had to call several shelters nationwide and persuade them to let me film at their facilities. In the end, to protect the discretion of the shelters, I had to combine film taken from four different locations altogether.
After keeping the names of these facilities absolutely private, I was able to get clearance to move forward with the submission of my work as formal documentary. Lastly, if it was not for the continued support and guidance of my advisor, Professor Hiroaki Sato, I would have not been able to realize my work to its potential. I would like to thank him.
NY Elite: What message do you want to convey with this project?
Tatsuki Imaji: This work was first inspired by the death of my childhood pet, Quu who passed two years ago. Quu lived for sixteen years overall, and his death sparked me to research about how many dogs in Japan were also dying. I was stunned to see that over 10,000 dogs are being killed annually.
The more I looked into it, the more I realized the wrongdoing being hidden in the industries involved in the culling of dogs in Japan. The respective lives of my own dog Quu and myself are one in the same to me. Life is life. It is precious and fragile, no matter who holds it. I kept this in mind as I moved forward to bring this documentary into fruition. It was important to frame this matter in a way that speaks to the consciousness of the dogs who are being killed in Japan in a way that touches the audience so viscerally that they understand this issue firsthand. It is ideal that countries bearing similar circumstances take away the same message: to simply think more about this situation, and view it in a way you couldn’t before.
NY Elite: The Red Carpet Opening Ceremony and the Awards Gala will take place at the renowned Kaufman Astoria Studios of New York. Do you plan to attend the IFFNY Festival taking place on May 25-29, 2018? What do you want the audience at IFFNY to take away from this film?
Tatsuki Imaji: I don’t plan on attending this event, but I hope audience take away this: “10424,” ventures to offer a perspective on the reality of Japan’s dog pounds not easily realized through the human point of view. That’s all.
NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
Tatsuki Imaji: For me, works that show social problems without direct reference to it through words, but instead addressing by use of visuals only are noteworthy. Also, work that breaks down the barriers imposed by genres and transcend the traditional structure of what people usually expect out of film, go on to become groundbreaking in my opinion.
NY Elite: Top 3 favorite films/projects you have been involved in?
Tatsuki Imaji: Having “10424” become and installation in the Media Explorer Challenge Award visual exhibition has to be my favorite project I have been involved in so far. The way in which the film was presented to the audience was both interactive and environmental in nature. I think the format of the installation really offered audiences a chance to experience more deeply what my film captures opposed to a traditional screening.
Secondly, I have been working with a local government office in the greater Tokyo area to create a documentary about students whom struggle to keep up school attendance and have high truancy rates. The effort itself will not be released as a formal work to date, but instead it will be used as a tool for the benefit of addressing the local needs of the children struggling with that issue in that specific locality. I’m glad to be a part of it due to the positive message it carries.
Lastly, I’m dabbling in some experimental ideas for making “self-documentaries,” for people interested in shooting them. I haven’t quite put anything into motion yet, but it has potential to be a really interesting project for people wanting to document their own lives I think.
NY Elite: What are your career highlights and achievements thus far?
Tatsuki Imaji: Highlights of my career until now would first have to include me entering Nihon University’s highly competitive film program. Nihon University is the premier institution for film at the undergraduate level and I was able to get in, I am very thankful for this.
In addition, “10424” is my first serious work and it was featured in the “Media Explorer Challenge Award 2018″ visual exhibition as an installation hosted at Skip City SAI-NO-KUNI Visual Plaza’s Museum of Visual Arts’ gallery space in Saitama City, Greater Tokyo. Lastly, “10424” was also selected for the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2018 here in Tokyo. This is the biggest film festival for short films in Asia, so I am quite proud of this accomplishment.
NY Elite: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?
Tatsuki Imaji: No way, film is everything to me. If I didn’t have it, I couldn’t express myself — plain and simple. I feel that sometimes we don’t need to use words to convey what we feel inside. In particular, if I feel frustration towards something in society, I turn my camera on whatever that is and make a video. I want to capture the reality of what is actually happening. This is really at that heart of expression for me, and for movies as well in my opinion.
NY Elite: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career in filmmaking?
Tatsuki Imaji: To anyone wanting to get into this kind of work, I would like to say this: film is a tool of expression. When faced with any kind of emotion: anger, dissatisfaction, success, joy, etcetera towards society, you can channel what you feel into making a documentary. If people feel compelled to know more about something, they can use this as a medium to express what they discover, and they absolutely should.
NY Elite: What’s next for you?
Tatsuki Imaji: In the backdrop of the oncoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, I think discourse on Japanese society is becoming increasingly relevant. As a citizen, I would like to continue to focus on domestic issues facing my country. Currently the number of foreign residents is increasing dramatically, though Japan is quite known for its tough immigration scheme. A lot of these foreigners are being channeled into dangerous work environments (namely Fukushima among many others) to sustain and improve Japan’s infrastructure. It is a big curiosity of mine to investigate how Japan is addressing this reality in my later work.