Japan Foundation

North American premiere
Selection 2022

My Small Land

Directed by Emma Kawawada


Official selection

Berlin International Film Festival 2022
Udine Far East Film Festival 2022
Helsinki Cine Asia 2022


Berlin International Film Festival - Special Mention, Amnesty International Film Award


Emma Kawawada


Emma Kawawada


Lina Arashi, Daiken Okudaira


Hidetoshi Shinomiya


GAGA Corporation

Japan, France 2022 114 mins OV Japanese/Turkish Subtitles : English
Genre Drama

Seventeen-year-old Sarya (Lina Arashi) doesn’t quite look like other Japanese girls. When asked, she says she’s German. It’s a convenient answer, far less complicated than explaining she is a Kurdish minority from Turkey, whose family immigrated to Japan under less than ideal circumstances. Soon, however, she cannot keep up the façade. She learns that her father’s refugee status is being turned down. This restricts her family’s ability to work and move beyond the limits of their neighbourhood. Sarya is put in a difficult position as provider for her young brother and sister and interpreter for her father, who now navigates a stern bureaucratic minefield. Ambitions of a normal life—boyfriends, college, the usual—seem to drift further and further away, as Sarya is torn between adult responsibilities and adolescence in Japan.

A superb debut from Emma Kawawada (and producer Hirokazu Kore-eda), MY SMALL LAND is an exceptional breath of fresh air in the context of Japanese cinema—and its notable lack of diversity on screen. Kawawada, herself Japanese of mixed heritage, explores personal notions of identity and belonging, crafting a gripping and thoroughly researched story around the hardships of immigrants in a country with notoriously draconian immigration laws. In the context of Japan’s fraught, institutional monoculture, MY SMALL LAND is a sweet, haunting, and revelatory experience—yet never a sensational one. Instead, Kawawada dares to ask hard questions, all the while exploring the contradictions of the heart, navigating this coming-of-age story with remarkable dexterity and acumen. One of the stand-out Japanese films of the year. – Ariel Esteban Cayer