Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on September 2013
As those of us living here who are not Japanese—or not fully Japanese—know, the insular nature of Japanese society tends to exclude us. This phenomenon cuts deep to those who actually have partial Japanese blood, and thus feel a part of society here, even if that society does not reciprocate. The new documentary Hafu, by Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi, poignantly investigates the lives of present-day mixed race/mixed nationality Japanese people and openly challenges Japanese society to be more accepting. It details the lives of five hafu, the Japanese term for mixed race or mixed nationality folk, and details their trials in dealing with a culture that seems incapable of integrating them. Those appearing span a range of ages and cultural backgrounds, from Venezuela and Mexico to Ghana, Korea and Australia. The most gripping case concerns the Mexican-Japanese pre-adolescent boy Alex, who has clearly been traumatized by mistreatment from his schoolmates and teachers due to his background. The film follows him from Japan to Mexico and back again as he comes to terms with his identity and living in Japan. The documentary is clearly aimed at Japanese people and, while occasionally approaching preachy, it is a heartfelt and deeply human effort to encourage Japan to be an openly multicultural society.
(87 min: Japanese, English and Spanish with English and Japanese subtitles). Uplink Factory, October 5-18.