Film Review: Passage of Life (2017); Director Akio Fujimoto.

Passage of Life

All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners. Passage of Life Press Still 2. CinemAsia Film festival 2018.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 4/5.

Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 104 min. | Director: Akio Fujimoto | Year: 2017.

What a lovely film! Passage of Life (2017) is a reminder of a world we know off, but unfortunately many people do not wish to acknowledge or wish to see it. Refugees and immigrants are a constant reoccuring topic, but nowadays it might be even more important than ever before. Many refugees and immigrants are fleeing from problems and issues that the West and other wealthy nations aren’t really trying to help solve. Mainly because a lot of people do not feel that it’s their problem. Because of this many want to move to the West or countries like Japan. Only to discover that they aren’t wanted there either.

Passage of Life shows a Burmese family living in Tokyo that immigrated to Japan without a visa. They spend their days waiting to get a visa and when they are rejected they begin to doubt staying in Japan and wondering when it is time to return home. Later on in the film we experience the family separated by two countries. The inner struggles of a 7 year-old boy become ever present who has two national identities and he’s struggling with a great change in his environment.

Passage of Life was directed by Akio Fujimoto. It is losely based on true stories and they actually used non-actors who are of Burmese descent and have been in similar situations. Although the film has a beautiful documentary feel, it officially isn’t a documentary. The documentary-style comes from the fact that the director wanted to make a real documentary about the 8888 uprising in Myanmar. But the Myanmar government proved difficult as the government isn’t so keen on foreigners going there and shooting a documentary about the country where ever they wanted. Thus, Akio Fujimoto made use of his Burmese wife’s connections in Japan to form a family that could represent the difficult situations that many immigrants and refugees have to go through in Japan, but also in other countries. The film stars Issace, Htet Myat Naing, Kuromiya Niina, Kaung Myat Thu, Kanji Tsuda and Kitagawa Yuuki.

I saw the film without too much background information which is why it fooled me into thinking that it was probably a documentary. All of this worked out super well, but even if I knew that it was a fiction film beforehand I would not have felt differently about the film. The film touched me, because the characters gave such strong and realistic performances. Finding out that they were non-actors made it even better. Especially the kids who at some point get more focus. It isn’t easy to direct children, but as the director decided to go with the flow and let the children decide the direction that he had to go into. It caused a realistic documentary-like feel and approach that only serves as a construct that made the message of the film more powerful than it already was. The two national identities that the kids had to struggle with and the change of environment was a very beautiful and thought-provoking display. We all know too well how kids are forgotten in the immigration process. They’re just merely seen as names, numbers within a legal status application process while they’ve been raised in a country that could give them so much opportunity.

The cinematography and tone are very fitting of a documentary-style, but it also represents the mood in the film and the places the characters are situated in. The film begins in the wealthy country of Japan, where we learn that you can live for a long period whilst waiting for the answer on your legal status application for years. Such uncertainty must be nerve-racking. Even though life in Japan fares well, it is portrayed as a harsh society against immigrants and refugees. Japan clearly does not want them. While Japan ironically needs them as the younger population slowly diminishes and the older population grows. The colors are very gray as the buildings and clothing styles are too. The warm moments are only seen when the family is together amongst themselves or with dear friends. At a certain point we get to see the family in the country that they are actually from, Myanmar. Even though the kids are struggling with their identity we see a colorful display of tones and moods that indicate the warmth that Myanmar is able to emit. The culture is much more open and livelier even though the living standards aren’t as high for everyone like it is in Japan. The mood and tone transitions are beautiful and influence the feel that the film attempts to convey.

Passage of Life is a touching film that in my oppinion will reach all hearts once people understand its dear message. Which is that people need to open their hearts to refugees and immigrants in need and care more for the worlds outside our borders. If you believe that their problem isn’t ours, you are sorely mistaken. Eventually their problems or issues become ours. So spread the love and be ready to have an open mind. Enjoy the film!

Released as from the 27th of October 2017.

Genre: Drama | Languages: Japanese, Burmese | Dutch Distributor: none yet. Seen at CinemAsia Film Festival 2018.

In regard to all pictures and trailer footage. All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners. Passage of Life Press Still 2. CinemAsia Film festival 2018.

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