17th Berlinale Talents | 2019
Christopher Makoto Yogi
Christopher Makoto Yogi is a filmmaker, writer, and artist born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai‘i.
Hi Christopher thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for the Berlinale?
Soon! I just got back from the Sundance Film Festival and so I have a few days to recover and then I'm off to Berlin. Travelling can be tiring, but it is exciting.
What does it mean for you to be part of the 17th edition of Berlinale Talents?
It's a complete honour. Glancing through the Talents participant list, I'm already overwhelmed and humbled by the power of the work on display.
Are there nerves ahead of the festival?
It is not only my first time attending the festival but my first time in Berlin! I've dreamed of attending this festival since I was a teenager, and I'm trying to remind myself just how strange and rare this experience is.
How important are opportunities like this for a filmmaker?
Being from Hawai‘i and making films about Hawai‘i, I see my work as in conversation with unique cinematic work from around the globe -- and yet, there is so much still to learn. Learning not only about new voices but new ways of working, new grammars, new ways of seeing, this is what inspires me. And so to have a forum in which the best cinematic ideas and work from around the world -- many of which I am unaware of -- are shared is a huge opportunity for growth and one that does not come along often for filmmakers.
Can you tell me a little bit about your work, have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I am a filmmaker, writer, and artist from Hawai‘i, now living in New York City. I make work that decolonizes the image of Hawai‘i, my home, a place whose stories have been told by outsiders for over 100 years now. By decolonization, I am interested in exploring not only the images and stories that have been erased but also finding new methods of working that are inspired by the spirit and land of my home. I have a passion for many different forms of creative expression, but cinema is certainly my first love and has been for as long as I can remember.
What was your first film experience like as a director?
Making my first film is still one of the most liberating experiences of my life! I made a short, very bad, experimental film on DV video called the Papier Mache Poetry Mobile. The film wasn't any good, but the process was exhilarating, sculpting with image and sound, and in every work, I am always trying to find that spark of exhilaration that I felt the first time I held a camera and made something that was purely creative.
What inspires your writing? It is usually a feeling inside that I am suddenly compelled to share with the world. I'm not sure where this comes from. From that point, it is then figuring out how best to capture and convey that feeling, whether it's through fiction, nonfiction, and what story, what form, what process. The beginning can be daunting but I find that if I just start following the initial feeling, the ideas will come.
"...make work and show it to as many people as will watch it."
Do you ever find yourself getting too attached to your projects?
Too attached?? No, filmmaking is so difficult that I can't imagine being less-than-too attached. One wouldn't have the energy to proceed. There are too many other interesting people, ideas, experiences, creative processes to engage with.
What are some of the challenges you've faced on your film project?
Funding is always an issue for filmmakers, especially when attempting to accomplish work that doesn't have a direct precedent. The other challenge is to constantly push oneself creatively, for me this means staying humble so that new ideas and methods can always have a space to enter and help elevate the work.
How important is the collaborative process in filmmaking?
I've worked with the same team for almost a decade now and without them, I'd be lost. We operate much like a band, and I trust them with all aspects of the filmmaking process.
How much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
The approach is constantly changing, every single day. I came across a Buddhist saying that said that chasing nirvana is like looking for the ox while riding the ox. I feel this way about cinema. Cinema is not something to design, to control, to perfect, it is something that simply exists. We are riding it.
Do you have any tips or advice for any aspiring filmmaker?
Don't be shy, make work and show it to as many people as will watch it. Find your team and develop your voice together. Keep a clear mind and a healthy body because seeing the world clearly is the goal. Above all, be kind.
And finally, do you have any advice or tips for any thinking about getting into filmmaking?
As an industry, it is an impossibly hard pursuit, but as an art form, it always gives.