Film gives voice to Japanese story
For Sachiko Kotaka, who immigrated to Australia from Japan 30 years ago, living in this country hasn’t always been easy.
The Lismore-based multimedia artist has experienced racism and hostility due to her cultural background, but also great compassion, friendship and understanding.
These polar experiences form the basis of her new short film Memoirs of a Crane, which will soon be screened at the Heart of Gold International Film Festival in Gympie (March 11-14).
Memoirs of a Crane deals with the dual identity of someone from a former enemy country now living in Australia and features Sachiko’s own story as well as that of local German woman Eni Baltruweit.
The film explores Sachiko’s experiences and her journey to healing and connecting with others. She says a large part of that has been through art – in this case teaching people how to make traditional origami paper cranes, which became a symbol of peace following the bombing of Hiroshima.
Some scenes show her teaching Eni how to make the cranes, which Sachiko says is symbolic of their combined desire for peace.
“This film means a lot to me. As a Japanese immigrant who arrived here in 1978, who couldn’t speak or write English well, I couldn’t have a voice in this society for a long time,” she said. “So I’m very glad I came across this medium. The short film seems the best way to convey my voice, even if it’s maybe a small one.”
Sachiko said the film was a very personal journey, and the real impetus for making it was to process her own feelings.
“Unfortunately I felt some people had bad feelings toward me, but I wasn’t even born during WWII, so that hurt and I didn’t know how to deal with those feelings – I just pressed them down in myself,” Sachiko said. “When I made this film I realised how much things have changed for me since I arrived here 30 years ago, but at the same time I realised there’s now other people, particularly immigrants from the Middle East, who are perhaps experiencing some of those same feelings. People can be suspicious of you just because of where you come from.
“Until I made this film I felt like I was always carrying a ghost of my ancestors, of my history, around with me. It was very important for me to digest those feelings I’d accumulated over 30 years.”
Sachiko said she was totally surprised when she was told her film was being screened at an international film festival.
“It was very exciting because it wasn’t easy for me to keep studying the Certificate for Screen and Media at TAFE. I am an artist and was exhibiting at the same time and the course is quite full on, so doing both I was suffering severe tiredness,” she said. “I had very supportive teachers and classmates, and for me it was a miracle I completed it and got the certificate… to now have my humble film chosen for this film festival is very rewarding.”
Sachiko plans to use her film to initiate group discussions to explore concepts in the film: belonging, collective guilt and forgiveness. She then hopes to document these events in another short film.
She is also hoping to hold a series of workshops in Lismore later this year where she will invite the public to help her make 1000 paper cranes.