A film bridging Japan and Myanmar

An award-winning film about a family from Myanmar seeking refuge in Japan has proven remarkably prescient following this year’s military coup. Its director, Fujimoto Akio, held a special screening in Tokyo last month.

Fujimoto plans further screenings in other Japanese cities. He hopes to raise awareness and support for people in Myanmar, where the civilian death toll continues to rise as security forces crack down on protesters.

His 2017 film depicts the true story of a family who fled to Japan after anti-government protests in 2007. It won the Best Asian Future Film Award and the Spirit of Asia Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival.

Director Fujimoto is married to a woman from Myanmar. He lived there for a year and has a special connection. “It’s a place I’d like to return to one day,” he says. But that’s not possible under the current circumstances.

Fujimoto in Myanmar
Fujimoto has filmed in Myanmar and Japan.

Fujimoto and his wife Yadana are worried about her family in Myanmar. They have been able to confirm the safety of her parents and sister, and sometimes manage to talk on the phone. But as the security situation worsens, their concerns increase.

“My parents say they cannot sleep well for fear for an arson attack at night. They also talk about casualties in their city, with people being shot at from outside their homes,” says Yadana.

The couple planned to visit Myanmar in May so their two-year-old son could meet his grandparents. They had to cancel the trip, and Yadana doesn’t know when she will be able to see her family again. She is disappointed to see her country descending into chaos.

“Myanmar has been rapidly progressing in recent years with infrastructure improvement and growing trade. We felt the country was moving forward, but now it’s in reverse,” Yadana laments.

She says people in Myanmar are feeling let down by Japan, which, over the years, has been a key investor and contributor. “People in Myanmar have expected that Japan would do something to help them resist the military junta. But those expectations are turning into disappointment.”

Fujimoto says although Japanese people are aware of what’s unfolding in Myanmar, they could be more sympathetic and understand the problems more deeply. That’s why he held the screening.

Fujimoto’s family
Fujimoto Akio and Yadana with their 2 year-old son.

About 100 people attended the event. Fujimoto donated all the revenue to an NGO that aids people in Myanmar. “I’m happy to see this many people gathered with an interest in Myanmar, when Japan itself is having a hard time due to the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.