Hirokazu Kore-eda protégé Ema Kawawada debuts 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 finds her world 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.
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