“AKASHI” written, directed, produced, and acted in by Mayumi Yoshida, is featured on the X1 Asian American destination this month in the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival collection. We had the chance to ask Mayumi about her filmmaking journey, and how her Japanese background influences her work.
Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month!
Mayumi Yoshida: This story was inspired by a real-life family secret. “AKASHI” follows Kana, a young woman from Japan, who leaves home to pursue her career in North America. Though she’s adapted to her new life, Kana feels emotionally distant and can’t seem to sustain a long-term relationship. When Kana returns home to pay respects to her recently deceased grandmother, she begins to recall one of their most intimate conversations. Reliving these memories and the funeral compel Kana to reflect upon her own actions and examine the course of her life. “AKASHI” shows the stark contrast in cultural expectations of love in Japan and Canada, compounded by generational differences between millennials and their ancestors.
How did you get into filmmaking?
MY: I started off as an actor. I mostly did theater in Japan, then moved to North America to pursue Film and TV. It was never my intention to write or direct. One summer, I got a spot for the Vancouver Fringe Festival, so I wrote a play based on my conversation between me and my grandmother which I ended up starring in and directing. Just when I was about to open that show, a film competition by Telus Storyhive opened their female filmmakers’ digital shorts competition. I saw the opportunity and submitted the sequel version of the play, which was “AKASHI”. I really wasn’t planning on doing it, but I couldn’t find any Japanese director/writer in town. So, it kind of started from necessity.
What are some films and/or filmmakers that have inspired you?
Do you have a favorite Asian and/or Asian American film?
How does your Asian heritage influence your work?
MY: It’s a huge part of my voice. The moment I embraced my heritage and noticed how I am constantly sandwiched by my Asian vs. Western perspective, a lot of the themes in my storytelling became clear.
What is your outlook on the state of Asian American cinema?
MY: I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am in my career when Asian American voices are being valued more than ever before. I was inspired by Sandra Oh, her presence on screen made me hope that I just might have a place in this industry. Clearly, representation matters and there are so many more Asian American talents gracing the screen now. It raises the bar to be an “ethnic” artist now and I love that. The spotlight challenges us all which is great. I just can’t wait to normalize what we call “diversity”.
What’s next for you?
MY: I am working on my “AKASHI” feature script. I am also back on Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle” shooting Season 4, I have some animation voice over gigs up my sleeve, and I am currently co-directing a Vancouver Production of “Soul Samurai” by Qui Nguyen that goes up in a month. My newest short, “Tokyo Lovers“, also premiered at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival on November 4th.
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