I was able to pick the brain of what will soon be (if not already) one of the greatest Writer/Directors in the current landscape of film, Edson Oda. His recent first feature length debut, Nine Days, has been released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download.

Nine Days is about Will (Winston Duke) and Kyo (Benedict Wong) spend their days in a remote outpost watching the live Point of View (POV) of people going about their lives on TV’s, until one subject perishes, leaving a vacancy for a new life on earth. Soon, several candidates — unborn souls — including Emma (Zazie Beetz) and Kane (Bill Skarsgård) arrive at Will’s to undergo tests determining their fitness, facing oblivion when they are deemed unsuitable.

Nine Days header

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However, Will soon faces his own existential challenge in the form of free-spirited Emma, a candidate who is not like the others, forcing him to turn within and reckon with his own tumultuous past. Fueled by unexpected power, he discovers a bold new path forward in his own life. Making his feature-film debut after a series of highly acclaimed and award-winning short films and music videos, Japanese Brazilian director Edson Oda delivers a heartfelt and meditative vision of human souls in limbo, aching to be born against unimaginable odds, yet hindered by forces beyond their will.

The Illuminerdi Interviews Nine Days’ Edson Ota

The Illuminerdi: I’ve seen the film now, three times and each time it meant something different. Because of the message, the themes, the ideas being presented, and where you are in life can mean a lot for you when you watch this film.

For example, knowing the plot does not prepare you for this film. The subtle simplicity in this film truly highlights it’s almost massive complexity. From the way it’s shot, the set design, it’s script, its casting and even the introduction to high minded, philosophical concepts of reincarnation, life, and how it is lived is a task to take on and you did it with writing and directing.

The first few frames are just masterful. The way you use sights and sounds almost like found footage to serve as a montage of moments in a life that we were able to peer into a life and by doing so you deliver the right amount of exposition. Which made it great in that way to connect us with the interviewer instantly. [Speaking of that connection and use of such an expositional tool] The use of a practical delivery system such as VCR’s, tapes, and TV’s for our interviewer to study a life really helped translate a very fanciful concept to us; the viewer. The idea of dated technology to infer the concept of a timeless landscape; was that always your plan with this film from its inception?

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Edson Oda: Yeah, it was always something I had in mind. It was interesting because it was all about nostalgia and nostalgic moments, and in my life all those moments are related to the 80’s and 90’s. So for me when I was a kid I was watching videos, or VHS’ and tube TV’s. There’s something about that technology that brings me back to my childhood. And there is something about that that I want to bring to the movie and connect it to my childhood. And there is something about it that I use to explain to my crew.

I don’t want to replicate my childhood but what’s the actual reason and explain that to my crew. There’s something that just feels right about it. I didn’t want to just show Will with an iPad and have him watching Amanda. So the reason why we only see technology from that time period is because, Will when he died. He died in the 80’s and when he died he was imprisoned in that time. It’s almost like his past was his prison. That justified my visual choice and gives a lot of room for creating something that is visually interesting and different and goes back to the past. It was the motif behind the choice.

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That’s amazing that truly informs the motif and the feeling of comfort in nostalgia and imprisonment or confinement within time. So that opens a different view of what was happening with Will. So the idea of a soul being timeless and existing before we knew what existence was seems to be a through line in the film, is it an ideal that is connected to anything as far as spiritually, religiously, or traditionally?

Edson Oda: Well that’s interesting because when I wrote the script I didn’t want it to be denominational or religious, but at the same time someone who is religious can watch the film and provide a religious interpretation if they want. I was raised Catholic and grew up in Brazil and all the things they taught me, mythology and tradition stay with you as a kid and help you shape your world in a certain way and you carry them with you.

But when I was making this movie it was almost like a symbolism or almost like a metaphor. Maybe they come from that I saw in terms of religion and spirituality but  when I was making the film I always felt that it was for everyone and no matter what they believe they can attach whatever meaning they see. And I just wrote it and it’s not religious but rather it is what it is.

Nine Days' Creator Edson Oda Explains How Nostalgia And Spirituality Influenced His New Drama: Exclusive Interview - The Illuminerdi

I understand that it is clear with its use of allegory and metaphor as it relates to types and shadows. Will himself is such a bureaucrat in the way he sees the job as very black and white and until Emma he doesn’t see the grey or possibility of it. And still shrugs it off. Did you mean for this to be seen as a quality or a fault in his thinking?

Edson Oda: I always wanted people to kind of relate to his view of life and understand where he is coming from. I think Will represents us when we see something wrong in the world and you just say “this sucks”. I think it comes from the fear and anger in something that you know is wrong and you are powerless to change it and then how do you change it, you don’t, you adapt and give back to what you are getting from the world. And you ask, is that wrong? [not really] Is it right?{I don’t know].

Emma comes from the other place, she wants to change the world somehow, and as beautiful as it is, sometimes its not possible and will is right and sometimes you have to adapt and do things that are not as beautiful as Emma defends. See, Will is Emma but he behaves like Kane. and it is kind of sad for him to be as pragmatic as he is.

So any plans, interests, or intentions, when it comes to future projects. I’m talking about wish lists too. Right now genre specific films are big, like Marvel or DC films to Star wars, and horror? Is there a certain project you would be interested in or maybe you see that if you could get your hands on you could make it huge or do it…

Edson Oda: Are you asking me if I want to direct the next James Bond?

Nine Days' Creator Edson Oda Explains How Nostalgia And Spirituality Influenced His New Drama: Exclusive Interview - The Illuminerdi

James Bond, Marvel, Star Wars… This is a sandbox where it’s not too big, and we want to know where you are looking to play next. 

Edson Oda: Yeah, it’s interesting because I finished Nine Days and started to get reactions ]i noticed that] people connected deeply with the movie. In a way that they started opening up about their lives, loss, and trauma. It is the reason why filmmakers make movies. I don’t know about anything specific but I want to make movies where I connect to audiences in that way. Where I bring people together. It’s hard to describe because the reactions are so strong, so deep that I feel like, now I understand why I am here, and why I am making movies.

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Could there be an adaptation, like from a book, or literary series?

Edison Oda: Oh yeah, I get you. Right now I’m writing something. It’s like my second Nine Days, it’s not Nine Days two, but it is my second Nine Days, almost a spiritual successor. It’s still intimate, it’s still personal, probably bigger but it’s a movie that I need to make, and want to make. But at the same time I am open to material that I feel I can add something to,or lend my voice to this project or books. And I am reading books and searching for material all the time.

This film was great and like I said depends on where you are in your life when you watch this film. And it’s something you should try to watch routinely because there are different things you’ll notice and how they play in your personal life is something to be observed. This film speaks to people in many ways and many moments in their life. And in that way, it is a masterpiece. The film ends with something so simple as gratitude for Emma’s help with Will’s self discovery. And it’s all because he finally received and understood true intimacy. He understood what being seen, being heard, and being valued is. 

Nine Days poster

Nine Days is available from Sony Pictures Classics on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital Download now. What did you think of Nine Days? Where do you want to see Oda’s career go next? Let’s discuss in the comment section below or over on social media!

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