Described by some as the Harvey Milk of Japan, Naomi Hiltz’s latest documentary Kanako: Challenging the System, about Japanese gay political candidate Kanako Otsuji, will see its world premiere at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival on Saturday, August 22nd, 2009.
We had the opportunity sit down with director Naomi Hiltz in-between movies at the Film Fest to talk about her movie, Kanako and the ever-so-polite Japanese society.
A few things remained with Naomi almost one and half years after shooting the documentary in Japan: not realizing how big Japan really was, the very polite society in which she and her crew found herself and unlike North American politics, the very grassroots nature of the Japanese political system.
After receiving the assignment from OutTV (the documentary begins its rotation on OutTV the day after the premiere her in Vancouver), Naomi and her team set-off for Japan to follow Kanako Otsujui for the seventeen days leading to the election as she campaigned to become the first gay Japanese Senator.
Traveling across Japan on bullet train, Naomi followed Kanako as she stood on her small van talking to anyone and everyone that would listen about her platform. In true Japanese style most hurried away, or for those that did linger and were asked about their opinion of Kanako’s run for Senate, simply had no comment.
With Japanese politicians receiving only 5 1/2 minutes each on television, as there can literally be up to a dozen or more candidates from the same party after the same seat, this grassroots approach is the norm within the Japanese political system.
It was very evident to Naomi that Kanako’s followers were a much younger demographic as she ran her campaign from the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo which is known for the more bohemian lifestyle (as bohemian I suppose as Japan can get) of its younger residents. The Shinjuku district is also considered the gay-mecca of Japan so it is not surprising to find out much time was spent there.
Despite placing in the middle-of-the-pack when election time came, Kanako and her supporters were very much surprised by the results and despite the loss Kanako still felt the entire experience worthwhile.
Naomi is very much looking forward to the premiere of her film at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. After a year-and-a-half in the editing room, much of the time due to the language barrier, she and her team are shopping the film around the festival circuit with Vancouver their first stop. The day after the film shows here in Vancouver it will also begin its run on OutTV in Canada and will also air on Here! television in the United States. Naomi told us she is hoping to be able to take the film back to Japan someday too.
Up next for Naomi and her team? Besides a tropical vacation in the short-term, she tells us she has the idea of a behind-the-scenes documentary on what it would be like as an animal as it is processed as food. From the barn, to the abbatoir to our dinner plates, she wants to know what it might be like to be treated as an animal in the food chain.
Kanako: Challenging the System
Vancouver Queer Film Festival
Saturday, August 22nd, 2009 @ 5pm
Kanako: Challenging The System, is the true story of Japanese gay political candidate Kanako Otsuji, as she campaigns to become the first gay Japanese Senator. The story follows her campaign trail throughout Japan 17 days before the election. The documentary also examines the Japanese grass roots political system as compared to the multi-million dollar campaigns Canadian and American politicians run.
Visit the Vancouver Queer Film Festival website for more information.