Sunday, July 3, 2011

Interview with Filmmakers of the Hafu Project: Lara and Megumi

Photo courtesy of
Hafu is the working title for a film in production about the changing ethnic community of Japan. With the ease of modern day travel and technology, the mixed-race population is exploding. Lara Perez Takagi and Megumi Nishikura have taken the challenge of documenting the multicultural Hafu experience of growing up in two worlds.

It's a big task and not many have tried to tackle it before them. "All I've ever seen is a news article or something online, but I've never seen something big scale like we're doing right now," Lara said, describing her reason for filming. "We're trying to touch as many topics as possible within what it means to be mixed race in Japan."

Megumi said that they will know they were successful when the effort doesn't end with them. "We want to make something that is the first step of many people exploring their identities through a number of mediums. It's difficult for any one piece of film or article or book to be the answer to the experience. Maybe people expect that of us, but we want to share small personal stories of four or five different individuals and contribute as one step forward. We hope other people will continue to explore this topic and the depth of understanding will grow."

For those of you still wondering: Hafu is defined as a person born from one parent that is not Japanese. In the audio clip, you'll here the word gaijin. Gaijin means foreigner, but is also considered somewhat rude or politically incorrect. It is the shortened term for gaikokujin which means foreign-country person or non-Japanese.

Megumi and Lara are no strangers to this word on the street. Lara said she blends in during gatherings because all that matters then is that she can speak fluent Japanese. However, if she is seen on the street or the train, sometimes people will stare as if she is a foreigner. Megumi, who grew up in Japan, remembers being teased as a child and wishing she could just fit in. "I wished that there wasn't this sense of separation," she said.

Their filming has taken them all across Japan, not just Tokyo, and as Lara said, "As long as we have the funding, we'll go anywhere."

The majority of their funding comes from donations through the website and during their events. After the tsunami, the Hafu film crew nearly cancelled one of these events, but instead decided to team up with a relief group to raise money for the people hurt by the tragedy and for the film. "Some people came up to us afterwards and were like 'Actually we want to give this money just to the production of the film' and to us that shows even in these difficult times there are people that want to see this film completed and  are willing to support us on top of what they've given to the relief efforts," said Megumi.

The deadline to finish is January and the crew hopes to have the film come out late 2012. They are also looking into doing a U.S. tour in the future, though nothing has been set in stone.

Not in this article, but in the audio:

  • Most touching experience
  • Why they decided to film
  • Explanation of the statistic: "One out of thirty babies born in Japan are Hafu."
  • Filming and working after the tragedy
  • Their time as Hafu in Japan (not included in the film)
  • Lara and her many languages
  • Thanks and other parting words
An audio option without captions; the paraphrasing might be distracting.

Fun Facts:

  • The longest they've spent filming in the field a week. Mind you, this is a week away from their regular day jobs. 
  • Lara does freelance interpreting and translating/proofreading in English, Japanese, and Spanish. 
  • Megumi produces other documentaries and describes the experience as "intense and challenging. I'll start thinking about one [documentary] while I'm working on another." Her next career goal is to work for broadcast, corporate stations like CNN and doing one-hour or so documentaries.
  • They plan to slowly turn Hafu into their full-time job.
  • As of now, the crew is still looking for a final character, an Asian and Japanese mixed-race person, to document the life of a Hafu who isn't immediately identified as not fully Japanese. 
  • There will be an online fundraiser for the film coming up. Make sure to visit the Hafu website for more information. People who donate more than $50 will receive a copy of the film once it comes out.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting! Just shared on FB. Really interesting stuff...