Racism — subtle or otherwise — is an open secret in Japan’s largely homogeneous society.
While it can be argued that such behavior may have been born more out of ignorance than hate, it leaves many foreigners who wish to immerse themselves in the many beautiful facets of Japanese culture very unwelcome.
Having experienced prejudice and discrimination first hand during his six-year stay in the country, African-American filmmaker Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, from Texas, chose to tackle the struggle of being accepted head-on by making a short film about it, according to Japan Subculture.
His award-winning piece, “Born With It” (生まれつき), is about a Black elementary schoolboy in Japan who experiences the racism from his classmates on his first day at a new school. In the movie, he tries to prove to them that his dark skin is not a disease.
“I wanted to tell the story from a kid’s point-of-view because I think it’s powerful to see someone’s innocence broken for the first time,” Osei-Kuffour was quoted as saying.
“This is ultimately a story about prejudice and it’s also disarming to see a child unaware of the scars of the adult world,” the filmmaker added. “Like most forms of discrimination, the most difficult moments I had in Japan are hard to convey convincingly. Most of the issues I encountered seemed to revolve around me, as a foreigner, not being perceived as an equal, normal human being.”
He continued: “There always seemed to be the sense that since I was not Japanese, I would be unable to comprehend Japanese ideas or values, represent my given company in a meeting or share a space with other Japanese people.”
Released in Japan in 2016, the 17-minute movie has since joined multiple movie festivals around the world, and received international acclaim, including The Best Film & Social Impact Award at the NBC-Universal Short Film Festival and Honorable Mention for Best Short Film at Toronto International Film Festival (Kids Section).
Viewers in the United States can catch “Born With It” on PBS on October 13 at 11 p.m. as part of the show “Film School Shorts” in San Francisco.
Check out the trailer below: