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Eiko Ishibashi Talks Collaboration with Ryusuke Hamaguchi: The Miracle of ‘Evil Does Not Exist’ and ‘GIFT’



“It’s a miracle,” exclaimed musician Eiko Ishibashi joyfully. She offered filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi to accompany her live performances with projected visuals. As the project for ‘GIFT’ took shape, so did the film ‘Evil Does Not Exist’ — in this “miraculous” process, there seems to be a subtle inquiry into us, the shapers of culture, much like the wild deer lurking deep in the woods in both ‘GIFT’ and ‘Evil Does Not Exist.’

With voice and sound, Ishibashi’s music in the film ‘Evil Does Not Exist’ won the Silver Lion at the 80th Venice International Film Festival and is set for nationwide release on April 26th. ‘GIFT’ has also been performed domestically and internationally, with Ishibashi’s remarkable performances rivaling silent films, leading audiences into uncharted territories and garnering acclaim. Amidst this ever-changing process, we caught up with Ishibashi for a conversation.

Contemplating Lost Landscapes: Embarking on a “Journey” with Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi

-The film ‘Evil Does Not Exist’ and ‘GIFT’ are filled with a stimulating relationship between music and visuals, but it seems that ‘GIFT’ was initially conceived as a project.

Ishibashi: It all started when an overseas promoter asked me if I was interested in doing a live performance together with video. Recently, there have been many events overseas where musicians perform along with video images. There are a number of venues for such performances, and in fact this time I have been performing ‘GIFT’ in Europe and other places in Japan and abroad, but the locations really vary.

The other day, when we performed in a so-called cinema complex, everyone was eating snacks and opening beer [laughs]. On the other hand, sometimes we perform in a very solemn theater. As a performer, the size of the screen differs depending on the venue, so the way I see the images changes considerably.

Eiko Ishibashi
She engages in various activities including producing electronic music, composing music for stage performances, films, and exhibitions, singer-songwriter activities, improvisational performances, and producing for other musicians. She has also participated in numerous works and live performances as a performer.

-The project ‘GIFT’ launched in response to the recent overseas trend of many such events.

Ishibashi: When I received an inquiry from overseas, what immediately came to mind was a live performance with abstract images. However, although I had seen many such works, the idea of doing it myself didn’t really come to mind.

In addition, making a video requires the participation of many people and costs a lot of money. Therefore, I felt that I wanted to create something that could be performed live on an ongoing basis. What I came up with was a “video with a story,” like the movies that I have been familiar with my whole life. I thought that with such images, I would look different each time and the performance would not be the same.

Scenes during the performance of ‘GIFT.’ Eiko Ishibashi performs with the silent footage Ryusuke Hamaguchi produced. While much of the silent footage used in ‘Evil Does Not Exist’ may coincide with it, there are differences in editing style.

-How did the project develop after that?

Ishibashi: I approached Hamaguchi around the end of 2021, after the summer of 2021, when ‘Drive My Car’ was winning awards at various film festivals and he was traveling around overseas. I think it was around the time when “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” was released in December. The reason why we asked Hamaguchi to make the film was, of course, because of his experience with ‘Drive My Car,’ but I also feel that the documentary “Tohoku Documentary Trilogy” (directed by Kou Sakai and Ryusuke Hamaguchi) was a major factor in my decision to ask him.

Trailer for the film “Tohoku Documentary Film Trilogy”

-This film focuses on the “narratives” of the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, doesn’t it?

Ishibashi: I was drawn to this film because I felt a kind of pre-disaster landscape rising up. I myself have a strong interest in “lost landscapes,” and I had previously made an album about the history of Manchuria called “The Dream My Bones Dream” (2018), inspired by photographs of my own father and grandfather.

-The album originated from the fact that your grandfather worked for an electric company in Manchuria, and your father, who is his son, returned from there.

Ishibashi: I have always been interested in themes that are sometimes connected to science fiction, such as flashbacks of people who were traumatized by the war and are brought back to the war, and lost memories. Hamaguchi is working on a work that is related to exactly such themes. I thought we could have a very fulfilling “journey” together if I asked him to make a video of a live performance.



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