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Filmmaker Nanako Fukui on Giving Voice to Love in Between the Sun and Me

The Arts are the great equalizer. Talent supersedes all. Additionally, that talent leads to a diversity in life experiences which results in an insightful perspective which can inform others. While diversity within the individuals actually telling these stories has not always been present in filmmaking, present day offers an increasing number of unique voices. Japanese filmmaker Nanako Fukui most often dons the role of producer but for the film Between the Sun and Me she took on the roles of writer and director as well; that’s because this film comes from an experience in her own youth and stepping into this trio of duties was the most accurate and efficient way of relating the story she knew well. Of course, it was also the most taxing; an obstacle that did not deter Fukui in her pursuit of relating this love story within a culture that looks unfavorably on it. While every genre of film has a multitude of productions presenting themes like war, justice, and love, Between the Sun and Me stands out not as a never-before-seen tale of romance but for relating how society rejects some love over others. It’s a fact that has been repeated throughout history and Nanako has presented it in a manner that relates directly to the era of her generation, doing so with a great deal of heart. Between the Sun and Me has been included in prestigious industry events as an Official Selection of the Palm Beach International Film Festival and presented at the Short Film Corner of the Film Festival de Cannes.

Nanako Fukui (center) on the set of Between the Sun and Me with crew. Photo courtesy of Vuong Tran 

While Between the Sun and Me is not Nanako’s own personal story, she witnessed a similar one first-hand. Fukui spent nine years of her youth in Japan attending a Catholic School. When one of her friends fell for a tomboyish Senior Class girl, Nanako had many talks with this friend who expressed the depth of her caring for the upper-class girl. This same friend experienced a great deal of negativity in voicing her love for another girl as she openly professed this. In a school community which openly taught the rejection of this type of same-sex affection, Nanako was awoken and moved by the condemnation of what seemed to be such a pure and positive emotion. As an adult professional filmmaker, she finally felt that her position allowed her to portray this scenario in a way that presented the negativity her childhood friend experienced in hopes of informing others.

The central character of Between the Sun and Me is Alice, a teenage girl who lives in a female body but who identifies as a boy. Raised as a girl and groomed to present herself this way, Alice yearns to take on the visage of the person she feels herself to truly be. Alice hides this from everyone, including her friend Rebecca whom she has secretly fallen in love with. When Rebecca has a fight with her boyfriend Adam, Alice reveals her love while consoling Rebecca, who surprisingly receives her kiss welcomingly. Empowered by this acceptance, Alice cuts her hair and dresses herself in a more masculine manner, only to be rebuked later by Rebecca. Crushed by this, Alice seeks comfort from her mother from whom she has always feared she would disappoint by becoming her true self.

When questioned about taking on so much work to create this film as writer/director/producer, Nanako responds, “It wasn’t about control, it was about truth. I could explain the emotional tone that I wanted a scene or the overall film to communicate but I wasn’t certain that another director would have had an experience that would cause us to feel the exact emotion the film needed. As a producer, I could coordinate logistics, hire the right cast and crew, and make important budgetary decisions but this all was in service to getting the ideal tone for the film. It was very personal for me and it just felt right to do everything within my power to serve the story to the best of my abilities. I put a lot of time into research, interviewing transgender people to understand their experiences better and then taking even more time with the actors to help them embody the characters. I think the same sex romance was just an element and the core of this story was to show the relationship between people and unconditional acceptance. I portrayed Alice as a transgender person because I wanted to show her journey and how she has changed throughout the course of this film.”

In the same way that Nanako Fukui’s work on this film transcends different titles to become the more accurate title of filmmaker, Between the Sun and Me asks the audience to consider the paramount idea of love and reject categorizing it into acceptable or approved delineations. Mature people who seek to support and care for others should feel unashamed regardless of who they are; Between the Sun and Me is their story to support why this should be so.

Author: Patrick Wilson
Filmmaker Nanako Fukui on Giving Voice to Love in Between the Sun and Me Reviewed by JaamZIN on 9:00:00 AM Rating: 5
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