The small island of Minami-daito is 200 miles from Okinawa, with a population of 1,200. It has no high school. So after finishing 9th grade at a school so small they share their cafeteria with primary school children, most of the island’s 15-year-olds continue their education on Okinawa.
Every year the departing girls belonging to a traditional music circle perform a song titled “Abayoi” (“Goodbye” in the local dialect) for their tight-knit community.The film’s heroine is the sweet-but-serious circle leader, Yuna (Ayaka Miyoshi). The film begins just as the previous leader leaves the island for her education, and Yuna is told that she will be singing “Abayoi” in only a year. But her family, to whom she is supposed to bid a fond farewell in the song, is hardly the picture of happiness togetherness. Her older brother Masashi and older sister Mina (Saori Koide), as well as her mother Akemi (Shinobu Otake), are all living on Okinawa, for reasons Yuna can’t quite fathom. (Akemi’s original reason for going — to care for the then-teenage Mina — no long applies now that Mina is a grown, married woman.)
Meanwhile, her father (Kaoru Kobayashi) stoically tends to his sugar-cane field but relies on Yuna to keep the household running. Then her sister Mina suddenly shows up with her baby — and no clear explanation of why she has left her husband. (Story description by Mark Schilling of The Japan Times)
Selection Committee Comments
“It’s hard to believe that there are still places like this in Japan. It’s about a small island 200 miles from Okinawa that doesn’t even have a high school. But the people are wonderful and they still have the traditional Japanese values, even though the movie shows that things are changing on this small island.”
“It is so beautifully photographed. The scenery is breathtaking. And I heard that the “extras” in the movie actually live there on the island. No wonder it seemed so realistic!”
“We said we want CineMatsuri to show every aspect of Japan today, and this movie helps us do it. It reminds us that Japan is not just Tokyo.”
“There are so many Americans who have lived in Okinawa and have such a special feeling and memories about Okinawa. I know they will love this film.”
“A wonderful insight into small island, small town life in Japan. Plus the appeal of Okinawan culture.”
“This story is something that people all over the world can relate to, regardless of their country. The theme is universal, even though it is set on a small island in Japan.”
“I think this film is very sweet. It seems to talk about the little things in life. But to the heroine, all these things are big. And who knows? Maybe, for all of us, our life is determined by these seemingly small decisions we make.”
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