For such a small word, “half” carries an awful lot of weight here in Japan. Adapted to fit the syllabary, the word is pronounced “hafu” in Japanese, and describes a person who has one Japanese – and of course one non-Japanese – parent. More often than not, the word carries certain connotations, and many Japanese have preconceived, often erroneous, notions that hafus have natural English ability, have spent time abroad, and possess many of the physical characteristics Japanese associate with Westerners. At the same time, the word is immediately indicative of something very un-Japanese, and many hafu – even those who have never set foot outside of Japan and speak no other language – are never truly accepted by society as a result.
The Hafu Project was begun in 2009 as an initiative aiming to promote awareness of racial diversity in Japan and the issues facing those of mixed heritage. It was after becoming involved with the project that two filmmakers, Megumi Nishikura and Lara Perez Takagi, began a collaborative work that would eventually become a full-length feature film titled, simply, Hafu.
Three years in the making, Hafu was completed in April this year, and has been screened at independent cinemas everywhere from Madrid to Tokyo. After checking out the film for ourselves when it came to Shibuya recently, RocketNews24 talked with Megumi and Lara to learn a little more about the making of the film and how in their opinion attitudes in Japan are evolving.