The movie “My Small Land” depicts the struggles of a Kurdish girl living in Japan, set in Kawaguchi City.

My Small Land

The friction between Kurdish refugees living in large numbers in Kawaguchi City, Saitama Prefecture, and local residents has been repeatedly reported on the internet. As “My Small Land” depicts the struggles of a Kurdish girl living in Japan.

In recent years, citizens have continued to complain that the security situation is deteriorating, and there has been criticism that the media is not reporting the reality, and hate speech against Kurds seems to be on the rise. Furthermore, there are voices calling for protests and accusations against such xenophobia, and for understanding towards Kurdish refugees. The Kurdish refugee issue as shown in My Small Land movie also leads to the question of how to think about coexistence between foreigners and Japanese people living in Japan, which is likely to arise even more in the future.

Let’s briefly review what kind of people Kurds are.

The Kurds, who lived in the territory of the Ottoman Empire from the Middle Ages to early modern times, were scattered over a wide area spanning Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria after World War I, due to the borders drawn by France, Germany, and Russia. Since then, it has become the largest ethnic group without a state, with a population of 30 million people.

The movie “My Small Land” depicts the struggles of a Kurdish girl living in Japan, set in Kawaguchi City.

Kurdish Refugees in Japan from the 1990s onwards

In the latter half of the 20th century, secession and independence struggles broke out between the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq, but amidst the complex international politics surrounding the Middle East, an increasing number of Kurdish refugees were fleeing persecution from the Turkish government and flowing to Europe. In Japan, from the 1990s onwards, many Kurds began to gather in Kawaguchi City and Warabi City in Saitama Prefecture, which had many small and medium-sized industrial businesses and were tolerant of foreign workers. Approximately 2,500 people are said to currently live in these areas.

Kurds in Japan: A Review

While the recognition of Kurds as refugees is progressing in many countries, the Japanese government basically does not accept applications from Kurds. (There has only been one case in the past). While some In My Small Land movie Kurdish people obtain residence status by having school-age children or by marrying a Japanese person, those without such qualifications are prohibited from working, cannot have insurance cards, have restricted movement, and are held in immigration control facilities as illegal overstayers. In some cases, they are accommodated in There are many Kurds who have lost their qualifications and are on temporary “provisional release.”

The movie “My Small Land” depicts the struggles of a Kurdish girl living in Japan, set in Kawaguchi City.

The frequent conflicts between Kurds and citizens in Kawaguchi City in recent years can be said to reflect the unstable situation of Kurdish refugees in Japan, as well as the differences in lifestyle and culture.

My Small Land: A work depicting Kurdish refugees living in Japan

This time we will be talking about the movie “My Small Land” (2022), which depicts these issues of Kurdish residents in Japan from the perspective of a Kurdish girl. The original story, script, and director was Ema Kawawada, whose father is British and mother is Japanese. She projects her own identity issues onto a Kurdish girl who grew up in Japan since childhood, and also highlights the complex position of Kurdish refugees living in Japanese society.

The movie “My Small Land” depicts the struggles of a Kurdish girl living in Japan, set in Kawaguchi City.

There are no Kurds who harm the Japanese here. However, it may be criticized for being too lenient on the issues that are actually occurring. On the other hand, by focusing on young Kurds who have lived in Japan for a long time and are trying to carve out a future for themselves in Japan, the film offers a perspective that goes beyond just the rivalry.

Lined up on the opening screen are three lines of text: “Language of the place you live now/Language of the place you lived in the past/Words passed down by the tribe.” They are Japanese, the language of their place of residence, Turkish, the country the protagonists have fled to, and Kurdish, the language of the Kurdish people in My Small Land movie, although it is not associated with a specific land. The position is clearly shown. Sarya (Rina Arashi) is a 17-year-old resident of Kawaguchi City who came to Japan with her parents when she was a child and had a younger sister and younger brother but lost her mother. She is a hard worker, has good friends, and is an ordinary high school girl who dreams of becoming a teacher. However, because she is bilingual in Kurdish and Japanese, she acts as a bridge between the Kurdish and Japanese people around her. As part of his role, he also performs small tasks that are requested of him. The Kurdish people, led by their father Mazlum, cherish their ethnic culture, such as the music and gorgeous costumes at weddings between Kurds living in Japan, and the traditional Kurdish food eaten while sitting on the floor. The way Tharya feels a slight sense of alienation is depicted in a matter-of-fact manner. Tharya’s younger sister, Arlin, has a completely Japanese mentality, and her younger brother, Robin, who is an elementary school student, is lonely at school. They can only speak Japanese. Even within a close family, the distribution of Japan and Kurdistan varies depending on differences in generation and experience. A family with such circumstances that are difficult to understand for Japanese people is placed at the center of the drama, and My Small Land movie conveys the reality of the Kurdish people living there.

Innocent love and unreasonable fate

In order to save up money to attend university, Sarya secretly works part-time at a convenience store in Tokyo’s Kita Ward, across the Shin-Arakawa Ohashi Bridge, without telling her father. Sakiyama Sota (Okudaira Daikane), who is the same age as her and also works part-time, casually offers her a helping hand while she is at work, and a subtle feeling begins to develop between the two.

The movie “My Small Land” depicts the struggles of a Kurdish girl living in Japan, set in Kawaguchi City.

The conversation between Sota and Sarja is awkward but innocent at first, and the natural rhythm of the distance between them gradually narrowing is very nice. Sota says, “I like red,” referring to the Kurdish red mark that was placed on Sarya’s hand at a Kurdish wedding as in My Small Land movie, which Sarya tries to hide by washing.

This must be a confession that “I love Thalya.” Therefore, Sarya comes out to Sota, who has pretended that she is “German” due to Japanese feelings towards Kurds, but now she realizes that he can forgive her. Sota’s way of accepting things is witty and kind. After these scenes, the two people outside are lining up papers and playing with spray paint in different colors, and as the rain falls, the colors mix together, which is a little rough, but it shows the freedom of people and people, transcending ethnicity and race. It gives an image of a kind of exchange.

Meanwhile, his father, Mazlum, who supported his family by working in the demolition business, had his refugee application rejected, his status of residence not renewed, and his detention at an immigration facility temporarily released under “provisional release.” It takes shape. He is prohibited from working, has no insurance card, and cannot travel outside the prefecture. However, even if he returns to Turkey, there is a high risk that he will be detained as he previously participated in the independence struggle. The heartwarming love between Sarja and Sota, who even talked about going to art school together in Osaka, suddenly takes on a tragic turn due to the crisis their family faces. Sota is angry at the unreasonable fate of the Kurdish refugees he has never known, but of course there is nothing he can do about it. At that time, a sudden incident reveals the gap between Mazlum, who values ​​Kurdish culture and customs as shown in My Small Land movie, and Sarja, who cannot see any meaning in them. Furthermore, Mazlum was caught working and was forcibly detained in an immigration facility. Amidst the anxiety and confusion of losing their breadwinner, the family’s feelings quickly fall apart. The people who support this dysfunctional family are Sota, a single-parent family, and his mother. In the scene where Sota, his mother, Tharya, and Robin sit around a small dinner table at Sota’s house, they appear to be a happy pseudo-family. However, after being fired from the convenience store, Tharya is left with no choice but to try to distance herself from Sota while maintaining her minimum level of pride.

As she struggles to swim through conditions that are too harsh for a 17-year-old, Tharya’s handsome face shows a delicate mixture of deep sadness and helplessness, as well as her determination not to show it to the person she loves.

The role of reconnecting families

The scene in which she crosses the Shin-Arakawa Bridge on foot because her father hides her bicycle symbolically shows the hardships faced by Kurdish residents in Japan as defined in My Small Land movie. The red handprint that Sota and I once made on the prefectural border display in the center of this bridge has been erased and a “no graffiti” sign has been pasted. As if to symbolize that even the smallest act of resisting division can easily be crushed by the nation’s laws.

The movie “My Small Land” depicts the struggles of a Kurdish girl living in Japan, set in Kawaguchi City.

Threatened by his landlord’s eviction after failing to pay his rent, Salya uses the part-time money he had saved up to go to university for living expenses, and borrows money from his Kurdish acquaintances, but it’s not enough, and a friend invites him to work as a father. Step into it. Even Sota’s best offer of help does not reach her feelings. you should watch the movie “My Small Land” for for information or a visual looks.

In this situation, Robin, the youngest, plays the role of reconnecting the awkward members. Her father’s words, “This stone and the Kurdish stones, nothing will change,” and the free drawing that Sota taught her to do are connected, and Robin blooms in her loneliness. The miraculous scene in which the weakest and youngest character in the drama silently points out hope through his own expression is reminiscent of the ending of Tokyo Sonata (directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2008).

The story of an olive tree in his hometown told by Mazrum, a father who made a big decision for the future of his children. The olive pot in the garden that was once watered by my father, then by Thalja, and now by Robin. Two olives in far-off places are the only symbol that connects a father and son who, due to the circumstances of their respective countries, will probably never meet again.

The only children left in the house will be barely supported by the goodwill of people who are not family members and have no power. The situation hasn’t improved at all, but in the end, the look in Tharya’s eyes, determined to carve out her own destiny in Japan, where she grew up, is shockingly strong.

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