The Land of the Long Lost Traditions

I want to create something personal, a story that begins with my family in Japan, and ends with me in New Zealand.

I filmed a small snippet for my documentary. I called my mum on the phone and we had a conversation based on the questions I had written up. It was very insightful to be able to actually sit down and hear my mums story. Because of Covid, I wasn't able to see her face to face, or film anything in my family home, so I asked my mum to leave some photoalbums on the washingmachine so I could just open the door and grab them to have a look through some of the photographs that holds all kinds of memories for my family. Unfortunately, my DSLR wasn't charged so I was unable to use it. Instead, I used my phone and my LED lighting set up to film these photo albums. I did this so I could get a general idea and film for what I wanted to create. I also went out to locations that I enjoy being alone at in Titirangi, and film some shots of the skies and ocean. 

When it comes to filming my second film draft, I want to encorporate footage of my grandmother cooking food, the objects in my family home that hold a lot of nostalgia and cultural identity and I want to get a clearer recording of an interview with my mum. 

A story of self-discovery, cultural displacement within Western spaces and a connection to food from Karin Yamasaki’s family background
Grandparents Resturant in Japan

For my film, I am wanting to create an expository and poetic documentary. The current working title is “The Land of the Long Lost Traditions”.
I decided to create something personal, a story that begins with my family in Japan, and ends with me in New Zealand. Being the first generation born here, I am often divided with my cultural identity. As I grew older and started finding my own steps in the fields I wanted to excel in, I realized that a lot of them were being dominated by white males. As time went on from doing art gallery openings to networking, I realized that I was very lost within white dominate spaces and my culture would always be the first topic of conversation.
This documentary is to find me, why I am here, why I am so separated from my culture and why have I been to bring up my ethnicity on conversations. I want to understand why my mum came to New Zealand. I want to know why she stayed here. I want to know why my mum raised me and my four other siblings in a space where our language and culture wasn’t the most important thing, but food was.
I decided on expository and poetic modes of documentary film making because something that has held the most cultural identity has always been objects. Plates, food, and Japanese artworks around my family home. Another thing that has been very important to me is the places near my family home where it is quiet and gives me time to reflect and think.
I’ve watched a few short documentaries that I really like the visual aspects of, so I am wanting to include a more visual essay style to my film as well.
My audience is the people who are in the same space as me feeling torn between cultural identities and feeling left out in certain spaces.
Why this? Why now? Currently in our political and social climate, there has been a lot more BIPOC empowerment within the media. In a way, I want to create something in a space where I can explore myself and become comfortable with who I am, instead of being in this in-between grey area of being too white to be Asian, but too Asian to be white. 

Grandparents Resturant in Japan

Visual Inspirations

The way that he captures this story is very emotive and captivating. The subject matter is mannequins and although some of them don’t have faces, the way that the voice over and visuals connect really compliment each other and tell the story. The score for the documentary moves between music that’s very anxiety inducing, and then atmospheric audio to create a space where you almost feel like you’re in this situation with the voice.

BBC's Body Language - Painful sex + Me

I saw this visual essay when I first started my journey of trying to understand what my physical body was doing in regards to really bad abdominal and pelvic pain. What catches my eye in this video is that just like Palmieri's short, its very expressive and emotive without it being forceful to the viewer. Although you get given the story, the visuals allow you to interperate it yourself and navigate the story as it goes on. The score for this video is there in the background but not too invasive. It allows the viewer to connect the visuals and the story. 

My film making process is very derivative of documentary film making. 

I like to go out and film, explore and just see the general space with open and new eyes, then I come home and review everything that I had taken. From that, I work to see what aspects I’m missing in my structure, and what else I would like to add/see more of.
For me to figure out what kind of style documentary film making I wanted to create, I found a few short documentaries/visual essays which I really liked the look of.  

Rachel Mason's 'circus of books'

This documentary is an emotional rollercoaster. Mason uses a mixture of interview footage, childhood footage and still photographs within her film. I really liked the idea of story telling visually being able to get an insight to her family and why this was such an important place for them. It's truthful, powerful, interesting and captivating all in one. I really loved the hand held shots of her following her family around too. 

In these three examples, they all share a few things in common. The mise en scene in each film isn't in your face saying 'this is what this is; but more of a have a look, see where you fit, connect with it and take that as you wish. It's all very personal and the voiceovers in each  film are clear, strong, yet vulnerable. I like the understanding of it being just realistic, and personal.

Shot wise, I take inspiration from directors such as Wes Anderson, for his overhead shots, and the Netflix series 'Dark' which has a lot of amazing closeups and focuses really well on the smaller details of the shot.

Overall, I really like the idea of visual storytelling

“The Land of the Long Lost Tradition” is an exploration of cultural displacement, isolation and white washing in a Western country. Karin Yamasaki was born, raised and still lives in New Zealand. 

As she grew up, she noticed and felt very isolated from her culture. Although Karin is full Japanese, she was raised in a household where Japanese was spoken, but not spoken enough to keep the language alive. There was a separation from how she looked Japanese, but didn’t act Japanese, with a lot of conversation around her cultural identity. 

Karin’s mother moved here in 1990 but was never open about her reasons for leaving Japan. In this film, Karin sits down and can learn about her history and how and why she ended up here.  

Synopsis (draft)