My Small Land

My Small Land

Japan (2022, dir. Emma Kawawada, 114 mins)
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Hirokazu Kore-eda protégé Emma Kawawada makes her directorial debut with this heart-rending drama exploring the little-seen world of Kurdish asylum seekers in Japan.

Seventeen-year-old high schooler Sarya (impressively played by first-time performer Lina Arashi) has lived in Japan since she was five, when her Kurdish parents fled Turkey as refugees. With university on the horizon, Sarya’s future is looking up – despite being weighed down by cultural expectations that sully a blossoming romance with her Japanese co-worker. But then her father’s application for asylum is rejected. Made unwelcome in the only home she’s really known, Sarya’s world is torn apart.

Kawawada is a member of Bun-Buku, the production company headed up by Palme d’Or–winning director Kore-eda (Shoplifters, MIFF 2018; Like Father, Like Son, MIFF 2013), for whom she served as assistant director on The Third Murder (MIFF 2018). Like her mentor, she has a gift for humanistic observation and a knack for eliciting authentic performances, here making for a striking debut that holds Japan’s restrictive asylum policy to account. Awarded a Special Mention by the Amnesty International jury at this year’s Berlinale, My Small Land powerfully calls for compassion and acceptance in a divisive society.

“A fictional story rooted in an unsettling reality … Kawawada hits all the right notes in this sensitive social drama.” – Time Out

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Language: Japanese, Turkish and Kurdish, with English subtitles
Genre: Drama
Classroom discussion points: Family connection, pressures and expectations, traditions, cultural clashes and learning, xenophobia and discrimination, refugees, coming of age
Age suitability advice: One brief scene of an unwanted sexual advance
MIFF recommends this film as suitable for ages 12+