Sweet Dreams For Chiyo

Rhiana and Kaz Ehara’s world turns upside-down when their daughter Chiyo is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Available on CBC Gem

Sweet Dreams For Chiyo


When Rhiana and Kaz married, they were sure their life together would be full of adventure. But when their two-year-old daughter, Chiyo, is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, their entire world turns upside-down.

Commonly misunderstood, there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes and it is not caused by lifestyle or eating habits. Type 1 is a chronic condition that requires 24-hour surveillance, which means after diagnosis, Kaz and Rhiana’s lives revolve around a single goal: keep Chiyo alive. From late night blood sugar checks to counting every single carbohydrate she ingests, Rhiana and Kaz live with the constant fear of missing a hypoglycemic episode that could take Chiyo away from them forever.

While Rhiana and Kaz find plenty of medical information about Type 1, there are no resources to prepare them for the emotional impact of coping with diabetes as a family. Filmmakers themselves, Kaz and Rhiana decide to embrace their difficult circumstances through the familiar, by making a film. From then on the camera is a constant presence. It’s there when Rhiana stands over Chiyo’s shoulder at birthday parties guessing the carb content in cookies and cakes she didn’t prepare, and when she carries Chiyo home from the playground because she is suddenly too weak to walk. The camera is there when Rhiana feeds spoonfuls of yogurt to her daughter in the middle of the night, when she educates new schoolteachers, and when she consoles Chiyo’s little brother Cai who struggles with the special attention his sister receives. 

Over time it becomes clear that Kaz, a cinematographer by trade, is avoiding difficult moments by taking refuge behind the lens, placing the entire burden on Rhiana’s shoulders. When Rhiana tries to convince a sobbing Chiyo to change the insulin pump site that is attached to her belly by a needle, Kaz films while Rhiana changes the pump and consoles their daughter.  

It’s a dynamic that can’t last. The film they were going to make together, as a family, has come between them instead. Rhiana breaks after years of sleepless nights and constant vigilance. She wonders where her partner has gone and when Kaz will step up and take on his share of the hard work.

SCENE FROM THE FILM: "I don't want you to film me anymore."

As the children rebel against the camera and Kaz and Rhiana’s marriage starts to break down, Kaz realizes he must put himself on the other side of the lens if he wants to be a real part of this family and their story. In the end, Kaz puts the camera in the hands of his wife and children, finally willing to show his vulnerability and confront his fears. Life for the Ehara’s will never be easy but together they can find their way out of this nightmare and return to a place where they allow themselves to dream — about all the wonderful adventures that life has in store for them and for Chiyo.