Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2019: Our Review of ‘Ai to hō’

Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2019: Our Review of ‘Ai to hō’

Hikaru Toda’s Ai to hō, or Of Love and Law, is about two gay Japanese lawyers. They are Masafumi (“Fumi”) Yoshida and Kazayuki (“Kazu”) Minami. But it focuses as much on them as it does on their wide range of clients. The documentary successfully argues why Fumi and Kazu champion civil rights for all Japanese people. Showing the clients also benefits the movie’s cause, as it lets them clarify their stances on major political issues.

One of their clients is an artist, Rokudenashiko, who faces censorship because of her sculptures portraying female body parts. Another is a teacher who refuses to stand up when the school plays the national anthem. It shows Fumi and Kazu spending time with the latter client during arbitration and the former during a performance. This is much more than a dry court film, showing how these lawyers immerse themselves in their clients’ lives.

Toda’s decision in who to and who not to depict has many layers. Fumi, Kazu, and some of their clients, are proud people, giving a face to their struggles. But there are faces that the film doesn’t show. One of these faces belong to an ethnic Japanese woman who isn’t a registered citizen because she’s the daughter of a single mother. Her disembodied depiction symbolizes one of these oppressive sides of Japan.

This doc also takes its audience to the streets where one of two things happen. The streets are where the war of opinion takes place, as Fumi and Kazu’s clients try to persuade the public on their side. These places are also where these clients celebrate whatever victory they earn, full or partial. All they’re asking for is for the judges and the majority to love them just as every citizen deserves. This makes this doc the fest’ best.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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