Impossible to Imagine: Spotlight into modern Japanese culture
Impossible to Imagine is the beautiful creation of Felicity Tillack, an Australian videographer and writer living in Japan for over a decade. Under her brand, Where Next Japan, she creates content about travel, culture and life in Asia, and hopes to help other travellers answer the question: Where Next?
Her debut film tells a familiar story of the relationships that are formed between people from different cultural backgrounds, and particularly the challenges faced when traditional asian culture collides with modern western culture.
Tillack challenges the archetypal love story that conditions us to expect that ‘love will defy all’, by instead giving us a glimpse into us into a culture where family, legacy and loyalty eclipse the desires of the individual. Nowhere is this cultural expectation as true as it is in Japan. All of this depicted beautifully against the backdrop of a picturesque Kyoto in modern times.
Hayato Arai, the male protagonist played by William Yagi-Lewis, is an Australian/Japanese business consultant advising local Japanese business owners on how to capitalise on the increasing tourist demands within the ancient city of Kyoto. His life is changed forever when he meets Kimono store owner, Ami Shimizu.
We meet Ami, played by Yukiko Ito, as she is struggling under the weight of her family’s expectation to keep her late-mother’s store afloat, while her friend’s businesses are thriving around her. As their relationship deepens, the lovers begin to face the fact that their seemingly peripheral cultural differences could actually be both the bridge that connects them, and the space that divides them.
A theme that may resonate with some audiences is the question of what it means to be ‘Japanese’. Hayato is half Japanese by ethnicity, he speaks fluent Japanese and has lived there for many years. However, the treatment that he receives from the local people portrays him as an outsider. For Hayato, he’s both Australian and Japanese, but also neither. Sadly, this is a reality often faced by people of half or multiple ethnicities, and never more true than in the more insular societies.
Tillack shows us a love-story where by the forces of love and compatibility are competing within this complex society, where expectations are so very different to the ones that most young lovers will experience in the western world. It’s moving, powerful and bittersweet.
For anyone looking to learn more about a traditionalist Japanese society trying to navigate and survive in a modern world, this film should be on your list.
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