My Dearest Sister
by Kyoka Tsukamoto
A feature-length 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 & west, feminine & masculine and shadow & light in her mind.
Official Selection of Raindance Film Festival
Official Selection of the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM)
Presented at Rendez-Vous Du Cinéma Québécois
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.
My Dearest Sister offers an artistic experience of purification, a renewal of spirituality in a contemporary art form.
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?
In 2012, I started to write “My Dearest Sister” with the support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. In 2016, I finished a medium-length essay “Creation and Sacrifice” supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. Then in 2017, I expanded the essay into the feature-length film with the support of CCA’s New Chapter grant. Consequently, this long process has made the work entering the public conversation after #MeToo Movement; at a time when the audience is attuned to marginalized voices.
This 77min. essay film shows the pattern, how a negative chain of abusive behaviors manifests in relationships, home, society and in history. I hope this work to become a tool for many, including my daughters, to navigate the future.
It tells the story of two sisters, separated by time and culture, who seek to reunite after many years apart. Set against the backdrop of the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear meltdown as well as modern Tokyo, the journey takes one sister on an odyssey that allows her to finally unlock the source of her secret anguish and find her voice, an expression of her soul.
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.
Like in a dream, the images Kyoka has of Tokyo reflect her inner landscape and childhood memories. As Kyoka returns to her native Japan feeling like a foreigner, it is her Occident gaze that captures a portrait of the sisters and their childhood city.
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, where Kyoka is finally able to confront her emotional ghosts from the past.
My Dearest Sister takes us on a journey, to the depth of Kyoka’s mind as well as of the mysterious spirituality of the Eastern Queendom. She follows her heart’s desire of recovering her ancestral roots. 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.
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. Kyoka is slowly able to regain her spiritual roots and suddenly open up to new realities where east and west meet in harmony, bestowing divine gifts upon her; her self-expression when playing the piano.
Written by Kyoka Tsukamoto and Ingrid Berzins Leuzy
Directed by Kyoka Tsukamoto
Produced by Michel Ouellette and Kyoka Tsukamoto
Cinematographers: Pierre Tisseur, Claude Lafrance, Alex Margineanu, Kyoka Tsukamoto
Editor: Kyoka Tsukamoto
Story Editor: Howard Wiseman
Colorist: Sylvain Cossette
English version Narrated by Kyoka Tsukamoto
French version Narrated by Rosaalynn TT Nguyen
French version Translated by Serge Abiaad
Voice / Acting Coach: Judith Beny
Music by Kyoka Tsukamoto and Sarah Pagé
Harp: Sarah Pagé
Soprano: Soriane Renaud
Viola: Juan-Miguel Hernandez
Piano: Kyoka Tsukamoto
Sound Mix: Eric LeMoyne
Music Mix: Pierre Côté
Costume: Dinh Ba Design
Kimono Coordinator: MASANO and Yukiko Yamada