NY Filmmaker’s Documentary About Ainu to Screen at Indigenous Film Festival

Ainu – Indigenous People of Japan

Saturday, November 27 at 7:00 p.m. EST

Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival Online

Tickets: $10 Weekend Pass

New York-based filmmaker Naomi Mizoguchi will screen her first feature documentary, Ainu – Indigenous People of Japan, as part of the Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival. The festival is taking place online.

About the Film

The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan. The original name of Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, was “Ainumosir,” or “the land of the Ainu.” The Ainu tradition has been disappearing rapidly. The latest survey shows the Ainu population in Hokkaido is fewer than 20,000. UNESCO has recognized the language as “critically endangered.”

This film is set in Biratori town in Hokkaido, where many people with Ainu roots still live. It is also known as the hometown of the late Shigeru Kayano, who contributed greatly to the field of research on Ainu culture. Since 1869, as a result of the new Meiji government’s categorizing the Ainu people as “commoners” in family registries, implementing assimilation policies, and developing their land, the Ainu culture quickly declined. After 150 years, modern-day Ainu live joyfully in this town with Ainu’s traditional culture while adapting it to their current lifestyle.

The main characters in this documentary are four Ainu elders who were born in the 1930s. One has experienced discrimination and poverty, another makes traditional Ainu dress, one remembers her grandmother’s oral folklore, and another has observed traditional rituals, such as the bear sacrifice ceremony. They remember their parents and grandparents spoke in Ainu, but they didn’t learn the language themselves. Their parents believed that the children would have a better life if they lived as “Japanese.”

After many decades, they have tried to educate themselves and be proactive as local leaders. This documentary tells the story how Ainu cultural tradition is alive now through the efforts of these elders.

To purchase tickets and to see the festival full lineup, please visit the Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival’s website.