At a small city in Japan called 'Tofu', there is a large amount of immigrants from Thailand and Brazil. This movie is basicly a take on them, how they fit on to the Japanese culture, about their place in the society, on what they bring from their own backgrounds and about how the Japanese people view them. The movie mainly puts its focus on the few construction workers, on one Japanese rapper who has a problem with foreigners, and also on some other individuals.
At first there is really no vocal commentary on the whole immigrant-thing. The movie shows some general life of the characters and it comes through it somewhat, until towards the end the problems and the views of the characters come about more clearly. One construction worker, called Seiji, spends his days with his quirky girlfriend who works in a beauty salon, visits nightclubs with her and with his friends and by day works at the construction site.
Just like with the Japanese rapper in the movie, having some ethnic identity is important to him and as seen in the scene where he and his girlfriend are eating at a Japanese place with kimonos and everything on, he doesn’t really feel at home in the country at all, because all he have ever done there is the work at the construction sites. He's kind of torn between everything. In the scene the girlfriend, who is from Thailand, says how she would really want to become Japanese and he bursts out an angry reaction to it, by calling the country shitty and so on. I'm not actually sure if the character was supposed to be Japanese-Brazilian or just Japanese, but he doesn't really feel at home in the small city anyway. The nationality mentioned in the film seems lost on him. He's not sure what he is anyway around.
The Japanese rapper who calls himself Ufo-K, from the band called Army Village who raps about stuff like rebelling and about politicians who are the real criminals and so on, comes to work at that same construction site, but even though he goes to a night out with the foreign workers as well as working with them, he can’t really connect with them. He finds an old girlfriend of his at a capoeira - the Brazilian fight-dancing - place. This female friend explains how capoeira originated from the slaves who practiced those kinds of moves behind their masters’ backs, by using mostly their legs because of the shackles on their hands.
She goes on to make a comment about how hip hop originated from black people as well and mentions about a theme-night she is organizing (or a friend of hers, I don’t remember exactly), which would feature capoeira, some other sensual Brazilian dancing and a pretty vocal Brazilian hip hop group. He and his come onto perform there as well, but as the people in there don’t have much skill in Japanese language and are perhaps more into the rap group from their country, the band gets no reaction and the performance is cut short.
This brings up some already boiling thoughts about foreigners from this character, as he had complained before as well in an earlier gig about how the audience didn’t understand the lyrics. He starts being more vocal about the subject and starts having some very serious thoughts about taking some action. There is a scene where he meets up with a political gangster who shares him with the pretty typical and non-surprising view, that it is okay if the foreigners work, but not so okay if they just fool around, like some do.
The lead man from the Brazilian hip hop group has some scenes too with his girlfriend, who is also on the band, but not as much as with the other too mentioned. He looks from some work and generally hangs out and has a happy life with the girlfriend. He ties in with the Army Village-rapper and to his story, as the sort of rival of his, though there seems to be no real personal issues with the two. It’s more about how the Brazilian person represents something for the Japanese one and so becomes a kind of target of anger for him.
The style of the film is very simplistic and anticlimactic. The focus in regular happenings of some regular folks and on some interactions between them, even though there is story and like the social commentary, it also becomes clearer as the movie progresses. As the is length for two and a half hours, there is enough time to do some slow building up before making this more clearer. The movie doesn’t really build up to anything too big of course, because even the one serious thing at the very end just kind of comes abroad and cuts out. The cinematography kind of reminded me of Takeshi Kitano, with the simple, mostly non-moving images, where the characters are clearly placed inside the frame and there isn’t much distractions in the screen. Maybe of Ming-liang Tsai as well, though the style and subjects is completele different and more stylized, and the pacing even slower. At times the there is some nice use of bright colors.
There isn’t really any original score and the only music comes when the characters are either playing it by themselves or performing it. On one occasion there comes a song by the Army Village-hip hop group just generally in the background and in that scene there is also some rare use of handycam and fastly moving image, as the camera goes pans through the streets in town. In another scene the camera pans about as well, as the construction worker I was talking about walks through some light- and people-filled streets in front of the masses of people. The town of course has a quite clear role, as there is no one clear story and the focus is more on some random clips of characters and their lives. Of course the character have their own lives and their own stories and as the movie is quite largely about immigration issues, they in one way or another represent different views and different sides of coin on the matter.
The actors are mostly amateurs, with much similarity to their characters and since they, just like the makers of the film, had day jobs and whatnot, it took some time to film the whole thing. The makers - meaning the writers Katsuya Tomita and Toranosuke Aizawa - where spending a lot of time with the actors and based some mount of the scenes on the real interactions they had with these people, making them expand the original script to some degree. So you could say there is some needed authenticity and whether as how enjoyable or not the end result may come across, I think the makers were at least trying to say something here. It’s not something in your face-completely, but pretty clear still.