My Dearest Sister

by Kyoka Tsukamoto

A feature-length cinematic essay pushes a boundary between documentary and narrative film forms. A filmmaker’s personal journey to reconnect with her sister, a successful potter living in the ruins of Fukushima is interlocked with her spiritual quest of bridging east and west, feminine and masculine, and shadow and light in her mind. 

It is like a mirror that reflects the image to show everything from the darkest shadow to the brightest light, but in fact, what it does is reflect back only the light.

 

 Photo by Claude Lafrance / Kimono Coordinator: MASANO / Costume: Yukiko Yamada

Photo by Claude Lafrance / Kimono Coordinator: MASANO / Costume: Yukiko Yamada

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Director’s vision

For me this film is about the chaos that ensues when trust is broken....by abuse, by lies, even by philosophical shifts. This is true of individual humans but also of whole societies. We become disillusioned, we become angry, resentful, fill up with hate. We build psychological walls to protect ourselves and the light has more and more trouble to get in so we mostly don't get to grow tall as we would in the sunlight, reaching for the sky.

Is there hope? For you or anyone?

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My Dearest Sister tells the story of two sisters, separated by time and culture, who seek to reunite after many years apart. An intimate letter to my sister slowly reveals family secrets in order to unlock the source of their inner anguish and find, among the rubble and broken dreams, of Fukushima, where my sister lives, the voice with which to lay their separate ghosts to rest.

 

The two sisters, Kyoka and Akane, a successful potter, yearn to not only reconnect, they want to restore the broken unity between them and that is where the journey becomes a pilgrimage. The polarity of their combined existence, one seeped in the traditional eastern culture, the other in the modernity of the west, echoes Kyoka’s interior search for her dual cultural identity as an artist.

 

The ancient queen Himiko, who governed Japan by using her power of divine revelation like a Shaman in 3c., has been great inspiration since Kyoka was a child. The spiritual figurehead accompanies her personal journey to re-establish a connection to her ancestry, and to anchor herself to the Japanese feminine culture which once flourished for many thousands of years.

 

As in a dream, the images Kyoka has of Tokyo in her head, extend to the real underground city of Montreal where she currently lives. She sees the train tracks symbolically keeping her connected to Tokyo and to Fukushima, where she often envisions Akane making her pottery. When Kyoka and Akane’s grandmother suddenly dies, Akane makes a cinerary urn for the elder lady. The two sisters then travel together to attend the ceremony of placing the ashes in a tomb.

 

It is only through this turbulent personal journey that she discovers the true nature of her anguish, a realization that finally frees her from the shackles of shame and gives her a voice. The odyssey of recovering the ancestral roots through the image of Himiko not only gives Kyoka a brand new voice of integrated consciousness of east and west to speak her truth, but also a gift of music that allows her to freely express her feelings through the piano.