Weaving together both historical and current events, how those events pertain to the savagery of racism over the years, and the juxtaposition of his own calming musicality, Omoiyari: A Song Film by Kishi Bashi is a stunning documentary about Kishi Bashi‘s own personal journey in exploring his past as he looks for inspiration for his latest musical project.
Co-directed by the composer and songwriter himself in collaboration with Justin Taylor Smith, Omoiyaro follows its titular artist as he uncovers the oft-cruel historical relationship that America has had with those of Japanese ancestry. Though the film is understandably heart-breaking throughout – one such sequence sees him visit a campsite where, during WWII, 120,000 Japanese citizens were forcibly relocated – there is ultimately a light shone across the darkness as the sheer beauty of hearing Bashi vocalise with his violin is impossible to not be warmed by.
The immigration issues we have seen with the Mexico/USA border, Trump’s Musclim ban, and even the recent “Don’t Say Gay” bill inject a chilling topicality to Omoiyari‘s narrative thread, highlighting that, tragically, no matter how many steps society believes they take forward, there’s constantly more to be taken. But in delving into such atrocities, Bashi uncovers a deeper meaning of himself and his cultural identity, leading him to question what it is to be American.
The irony that “Omoiyari” means to have compassion and sympathy towards another person is not lost on Bashi or Taylor Smith as they broadcast atrocities through never-before-seen archival footage. But, in true harmony with such a word, there’s a a celebration to the diversity of America too, and how taking the time to truly listen to each other, whether that be through spoken dialogue or music, could, perhaps, prevent the darkest days of history from repeating themselves.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Omoiyari: A Song Film By Kishi Bashi is screening as part of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, which is being presented in-person and virtually between March 11th and 20th, 2022. For more information head to the official SXSW website.