Friday, July 27, 2012

Foreign Lands

Lonely Swallows (2011) - Tsumura, Nakamura
I always gravitate toward documentaries that feature young people regardless of how they are made (in this case, poorly from a technical standpoint). With Gu Su-yeon's Hard Romanticker, this year's Japan Cuts highlights some of the trials and tribulations of the ethnic minorities in a very homogenous society. Lonely Swallows, made by Kimihiro Tsumura, a college professor with the help of Mayu Nakamura, chronicles 5 young Brazilian-Japanese who are the children of migrant workers, living in the city of Hamamatsu, from 2007 to 2010. Their parents came to Japan in the 90s for the prospects of jobs, mostly working in factories. These children are born in Japan, but they are foreigners, they are not subjected to Japanese compulsory education system. They don't continue their study after Junior High and start working in factories. Some resent their parents and join the gang, some form a b-boy group and others try very hard to do right under very difficult circumstances. Then the recession hits Japan in 2008. Foreign workers were the first to be laid off. Many families had no choice but to leave Japan to go back to Brazil. For the children who are teens now and was born and grew up in Japan, this is an earth-shattering, life changing experience.

The filmmakers unevenly follow their journey, some turn out good, some don't. It's heartbreaking, devastating and hopeful. The doc doesn't concentrate on the unfairness of the system. Rather it concentrates on these individuals and it's a welcoming move. It shows the resilience of these young people. One can immediately think of Michael Apted's Up Series. I really hope the filmmakers revisit these young people periodically and see how they are doing. Lonely Swallows is a small film that will probably never see the light other than in some festivals. But I'm very glad I got to see it at this year's Japan Cuts.

Lonely Swallows plays on July 28th, 5pm at Japan Society. For tickets and more information, please visit Japan Cuts website.