Japan, Chile, Canada: I am a product of many worlds
As a documentary filmmaker, I'm used to working with other people's intimate stories. For storytellers, it's a given that emotions arising from conflict, hardships and personal stories capture the audience's attention and hearts.
In my short documentary Ru-Tsu, it was quite the step to look inwards and focus the camera and the questions of my own story. Part of that introspection was sparked by deciding to take a six-month trip to Japan in 2020, a trip to reclaim my identity and roots there — something I was ashamed of when I was younger. A spin-off of that journey would be working on the film Ru-Tsu with my Japanese grandfather, David Suzuki.
The film dives into the complexities of our family, impacts of racism and the healing one can find in the natural world. Most people think David Suzuki passed on his love of nature to me and thus made me an environmental activist but the truth is much more complex.
My dad was one of the most influential people in my life and his career was certainly the opposite of my grandfather's, having worked in the very industries my grandfather opposed. Families have a way of breaking social moulds and rules.
My father was from Chile and ever since I was little I've always felt more Chilean than Japanese. Perhaps it was the many summers I'd flown down to Latin America to go snowboarding, compete and visit family. I can speak Spanish, not Japanese.
Maybe it was the fact my dad was an immigrant from Chile at 18 whereas my mom's great-grandparents came over from Japan. Unfortunately, it could have been racism. Experiences have a way of accumulating shame and resentment in one's own story. I can still remember like yesterday being taunted by kids in elementary school about having skinny, slanted eyes and eating smelly food. (Funny how you can't find a block in the same city now without a sushi restaurant.) Although I know that experience pales in comparison to what my grandparents dealt with during WWII: Being born in Canada but interned in camps based on their Japanese heritage. Having all their belongings taken away and living in animal factories treated like "enemy aliens." That type of intergenerational shame gets passed on in more subtle ways.
Nowadays, many of my Indigenous friends reclaim their heritage, their songs, their stories that were ripped away from Canadian colonization and assimilation. I also have a yearning to know more about my ancestors and the land they walked on. In search of a side of me I'd pushed away when I was younger.
You can't run away from the stories that shape you and that's what led to this journey and this film.