Megumi Nishikura, left, and Lara Perez Takagi, right, produced and directed Hafu a film that discusses the mixed-race experience in Japan and the challenges that lie therein. Photo: Albert SiegelLara Perez Takagi has faced her fair share of strange looks in both of her ancestral homes.
As a child of Japan and Spain, her mixed-race experiences have been “mixed” and her second documentary on the mixed race experience explores the challenges Hafu face in Japan.
While on a government scholarship, Takagi produced her first film Madrid x Tokyo that focused on her relationship with Japan.
Bumping into an article in the Japan Times about a group of exhibitors doing photos essays on Hafu, she began to see a vision of a documentary and that’s when she met Nishikura who would become her co-director.
“I suggested doing some kind of film collaboration with them because I was interested in what they were doing. I thought it would be great to take it to the new level from photography and interviews to film.”
Created by Takagi and Megumi Nishikura, Hafu shines a spotlight on several subjects living in the country. From David who is half Ghanaian and Japanese to Fusae who was born and raised in Kobe to a Korean-Japanese father, the film looks into Japan’s social fabric and the place of mixed people.
“In the beginning we were worried about how some people would react to some of the topics we were covering,” Takagi says.
“Surprisingly reaction has been very positive. We had about 900 people who went to see the film in December when we screened it in Shibuya. There are people who are telling us they never realized they were unconsciously treating people in a certain way,” she says.
From a pool of 90 people found by researcher and sociologist Marcia Tume Lise, the documentary team was able to find subjects who would talk about their experiences.
“You want to look at what does someone who is part-Latino experience versus someone who is half-Asian who you might be able to tell the difference if they are ‘full Japanese’ or not.”
For Takagi, growing up in Madrid was easy until someone noticed her last name. Takagi? They’d ask, what kind of name is that? Do you eat with chopsticks? Do you speak Chinese? Most would gush over her mixed-race identity, but no one truly understood what being mixed was like.
And in her other ancestral home, Japan, she’d be asked the same kind of questions.
When she was younger, her family would often visit Japan and she would be sent to summer camp to interact with other kids.
When they found out they were half-Spanish, they wouldn’t even use their real name and would just call them “Spain” because it was so out of the ordinary.
“My co-director would do a Q&A session after every session and they’d ask, ‘How should we treat people who are mixed race’?”
And around the world people are reacting to her film.
“Something that was quite interesting there were a few people in London who weren’t half-Japanese, but they were mixed-race,” Takagi says. “They felt the film really related to them and told me after that they totally understand the feeling.”
Hafu will be screened at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre on July 26th and at The Powell Street Festival on August 3rd.