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What Would You Do If Electricity Disappears?
“The Survival Family” Premieres in Chicago

• “The Survival Family” premiered on February 11 at 268 theatres in Japan and attracted 130,000 visitors in two days. Its sale during the period was about $1.5 million. Writer-Director of the movie Shinobu Yaguchi was invited to Chicago by the Asian Pop-up Cinema, which has introduced Asian culture via films, and showed up at AMC theatre where his movie was premiered on March 1st.

Story

• What would happen if electricity disappeared from the earth? No smartphone, no electrical appliance, no automobile, no train, no airplane is in use. Rumors are the only available social media.
• An ordinary family of the Suzukis decides to leave Tokyo where food and water are disappearing. Their destination is Kagoshima Prefecture, some 850 miles away from Tokyo.
• Suzuki has a big mouth, but does nothing except doing his job. His son Koji, a college student, and his daughter Yui, a high-school student, have no respect for their dad. His wife Mitsue seems to know the wisdom of life.
• The four ride bicycles and run a highway to the west, the direction of Kagoshima while they are encountering various people and hardships. If you need food, you have to fight with a pig in a field. If you need to cross a river, you have to make a raft. They came a long way, but Kagoshima is still far away.

Interview with Director Yaguchi

• Q: You wrote the story. How did you get the idea for it?

• Yaguchi: In my nature, I’m very much awkward using computers or smartphones and saw news about a great blackout in New York and Canada in 2003. Since then, I’ve been thinking about it.

• Q: When did you shoot the film?

• Y: It was from September to the end of November in 2015.

• Q: It was amazing to see that many people were walking on a highway where every car was dead. How did you make it happen?

• Y: Simply, I filmed the scene. All the scenes were shot on location with no CG. I was very lucky to stop running cars on a highway from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• The place was Yamaguchi Prefecture. I went to see Lieutenant Police Inspector and explained my project, and then he gave me an O.K. sign and said that he would work with me as his last job before his retirement. The timing was perfect, that was why I could use the highway.
• Q: The Suzuki family was getting exhausted scene by scene.

• Y: Yes. We moved every day and continued filming. So the Suzukis literally got tired day by day as the film showed.
• I wanted to put the family in the nature to describe their survival challenges in reality.
• The scene that the family crosses a river by a raft, I filmed it at the end of November although the season was summer in the film. It was a cold day, and water temperature was really low, but I asked the family to do it. That’s why they looked like they were facing death and so serious to survive. It was a real situation.

• Q: I heard that actor Kohinata, who played the role of Mr. Suzuki, said that he paid respect to you but sometimes blamed you.

• Y: I think so. The scenes became harder and harder toward the end, but I asked them to play as planned.
• I filmed the river crossing scene at the end of the shooting schedule because I could complete filming even if they caught a cold or got sick.

• Q: The family comes to Tsutenkaku in Osaka. Is it a real Tsutenkaku?

• Y: Yes! I filmed the scene in the early morning. Our staff prepared everything at night, and we were going to start shooting at the sunrise; however, an unexpected incident happened. Drunken men came out from a tavern and complained a lot about the scene where artificial garbage was spread all over. While our staff was trying to calm them down, I filmed the Osaka scene.

• Q: You have to deal with any happening.

• Y: Do you remember the scene when an aquarium in Osaka offers meals for hungry people with its fish? Getting permission from the aquarium was very hard because of the distasteful feeling of such a thing. But only Suma aquarium in Kobe gave us permission.
• I asked why it accepted our request, and they said that they had accepted the victims and served meals when the great earthquake hit Kobe in 1995. It was an important scene that Suzuki abandoned his pride and turned to take care of his family. Without cooperation from Suma aquarium, I couldn’t make that scene.

• Q: The scenes in the Survival Family are thrilling and incidents occur from one to the next such as attacks by starved dogs and a steamer.

• Y: I traveled a lot to figure out the scenes. I found that a bottle of battery liquid was drinkable, canned cat food was edible, and so on during the trips.
• I spent a lot of time to research, and then I wrote and drew images. I love to do that.

• Q: How did you set the destination as Kagoshima?

• Y: Actually, I did a questionnaire survey how a certain age group reacted to a no electricity situation. I found that most 20-somethings thought that they would die within a month; on the other hand, aged groups listed survival methods such as planting vegetables or fishing by moving to a relative’s house in rural area. The survey hinted to me that the survival family’s goal was Kagoshima.

• Q: You are a hard-minded director, but I think that you are a genuine writer.

• Y: I published a novel “The Survival Family” after completing the film. I really enjoy trips and meeting people to get information that excites me.

• Q: Thank you very much


Director Shinobu Yaguchi


Scenes from The Survival Family. (Photos: courtesy
of the Asian Pop-up Cinema)