#SHORTVIEW: “Noriaki” by Bjorn Bratberg


Noriaki, age 50, has been a ski jumper as long as he can remember, and has no plans of retiring. In the world’s biggest ski jumping hill, all his skills and experience will be tested.


> Why did you decide to make a documentary on Noriaki?

I think, since I’m living in London now, and I live far away from where I grew up, I had this intense will of doing something that reminded me of where I was from: and sky jumping was this thing. I used to do it, and be very interested in it, and I thought of this figure of Noriaki, who is a legend in that, and that was about it.

I usually work as a cinematographer, you know, but I like to do films on the side. I think we all filmmakers make films about the things that we care about, but for me personally, I also felt this thing – you know, about how every short documentary it’s just becoming the same, with the same kind of interviews and stuff. I wanted to do something different.

I wanted to make something about not wealth, not fame, but about what drives one to do things, to pursue our passions, especially in sports, because I love sports. But I didn’t want to explore the idea of “winning”, which is so prevalent in sports, but the idea of “love”: a love for the sport itself. And I wanted to focus on someone who is not from the culture, but comes from outside, because in Norway everybody knows about sky jumping, but Noriaki comes all the way from Japan, which is really interesting.

> The life of Noriaki seems entirely devoted to his sport, but he’s approaching the end of his career – has he spoken about future plans?

He has a family now, and he’s 50 years old, so I’m sure he must have thought about it. But when you speak with him, he comes off with so much devotion, with so much love for the sport, that you don’t know, really – this is truly his life, his thing. And also, Noriaki himself has this kind of Japanese way of being, this spirituality, in that he’s very mysterious, and does not give much away in the way of any clues or clear answers.

There’s undoubtedly a big question at the end of the road, but he just keeps going, and this has enthused some people to become fascinated with him. There’s this guy who has even written a whole book of poems about him, and gone in a kind of pilgrimage to his hometown, etc.

> Why do you think athletes like Noriaki may choose to give up everything for their sport?

I think it’s very important to have in mind that in this particular sport, meaning sky jumping, almost nobody earns a lot of money – most athletes only do it because they really like it, and by 30 years old, most of them retire, because they have to start a transition to a normal life, in which they can support a family. So very few people can devote themselves in the way that Noriaki has.

Sports have something special, you know, you do sports to develop yourself, to develop a healthy mind in a healthy body. You need to be driven by more than just money or fame to do it, because, in the end, you’re mostly competing against yourself – and there’s also a factor of danger, of fear, which you have to overcome to be able to keep going.

> Why did you decide to give the film this kind of grainy, used-up look?

I’m a big believer in shooting analog, because it retains this kind of feeling of nostalgia and memory. It’s a different vibe, a different texture. That’s also why I decided to shoot everything in black and white – because it kind of feels different.

Also, the movie uses three different treatments for three distinctive feels: what is happening in the moment, meaning the actions and conversations; what is hoped and dreamed, as in the dreams and aspirations of Noriaki himself; and the moments of Nostalgia, in which Noriaki explains the “whys” and “hows” of what he does.

> How was the general reception of the film?

It got quite a good reception, although, as with any other short film, I had a lot of rejections from a lot of big festivals – and I think it’s because it’s not something very easy to get into screening programs.

There’s not much room for this kind of “aesthetic” short documentary on many festivals, since short films nowadays are becoming very focused on “twists” or “bigger than life” concepts, and the kind of short documentaries that are being screened put a lot of effort into having a lot of interviews with famous people that may attract a bigger audience.

I tried hard to sell it to the TV people, and they all loved it, but nobody wanted to buy it. I had no ambition of becoming famous or anything like that, anyway, so I didn’t really care: I wanted to do something for myself, and that’s what I did.

At the time of the interview, Bjorn was considering doing a project about the Brazilian “golden” football team of the 80s, while still being interested in doing more projects about ski and other winter sports.



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