Of Love & Law

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Of Love & Law

Directed by Hikaru Toda

  • Japan, United Kingdom, France 2017; 94 min
  • Original version: Japanese
  • Genre: Documentary
    • Best Picture Award - Tokyo IFF
    • Firebird Award (Documentary Competition) - Hong Kong Film Festival

Synopsis

Fumi and Kazu are partners in love and law; they run the first law firm in Japan set up by an openly gay couple. As lawyers driven by their own experience of being ​outsiders​, they attract a range of clients who reveal the ​hidden diversity of a country that prides itself for collective obedience, politeness and conformity. Tired of being silenced and made to feel invisible, ​the lawyers and their misfit clients expose and challenge the archaic status quo that deems them second-class citizens. With the backdrop of civil liberties under attack, the film poses universal questions about what it takes to be an individual, what it means to be a minority and what role a family plays in our increasingly polarised world.

Director's Statement

I met the lawyers 5 years ago and I immediately fell in love with how honest and vulnerable they were, how they embraced each other’s faults and imperfections and accepted each other. Their individual weaknesses were what made them strong together. As I got to know them better, I wanted to find out how they survived society like Japan. Japan is a conformist society with strict social codes governed by traditional and conservative values. You are taught from a young age not to question authority and to blend in more than to stand out. To respect the others but never to respect yourself. Individuals are valued only when they belong to a collective – a family, a community and society. To be an individual is not a right but a privilege in Japan. This is the opposite set of values to what I was taught growing up in Holland where the individual is expected to speak their mind and have an opinion different to others. Living in diversity, communication was key to bridge the gap between people’s difference. Yet in Japan, diversity is foreign, silence is revered and there is a sense of pride in understanding each other without the need for communication. There is no outward opposition to who you are as long as you follow the rules and ‘read the air’ as the Japanese saying goes. The air tends to be thick with expectations and obligations. The silence is power and highly charged. Discrimination is nuanced and never personal for the majority who has become the mechanism to keep each other in check. But alienation is real and very personal for those who kill their breath for the fear of breaking the silence. To me, the lawyers and the people who come to them for help represent the voices for change. They are risk takers who decided to face the consequences for breaking their silence. The consequences all have legal implications. The law in Japan is both something that people rely on to protect their rights as well as representing the very values that they are challenging. The lawyers believe in the law as a vehicle for change but are also frustrated with the outdated and often contradictory legal system that doesn’t take into account the lives of the people they represent. As an outsider coming into Japan, I feel the deep responsibility to communicate the realities that silences the people challenging it. I believe the themes in the film are universal – people fighting to be who they are, seeking for acceptance and for love. Love for each other but perhaps more importantly for themselves – something the lawyers embody in their search for a family of their own. I am compelled to tell the story that they represent - of strength that comes from accepting others as well as our own differences and weaknesses.

Production

  • LITTLE STRANGER FILMS

    Hikaru Toda 

  • HAKAWATI

    Elhum Shakerifar