Of Love & Law

Directed by Hikaru Toda
Japan, UK, France
94 mins

Openly gay life partners Fumi and Kazu run a small law firm in downtown Osaka, Japan, where Mary (Kazu's mother) works part time running errands for the two. Together for 15 years, it hasn't always been easy gaining acceptance, in a country where their partnership has no legal recognition and stigma is rife.

Through their life and work, we see a snapshot of Japan in transition — a country where collective unity is absolute and often maintained at the expense of individual rights and freedom. Not being part of the majority could lead to prosecution by law and alienation by society at large — as is illustrated by the cases that the two lawyers take on.

Of Love & Law follows the two lawyers as they enter into the lives of their clients, each revealing the challenges of being an individual who is made invisible or silenced by a deeply conformist society for simply being different. We meet Rokudenashiko, an artist arrested for breaking the obscenity law with her vagina-themed art works; Ms. Tsujitani dismissed from her teaching position for not singing the national anthem at a graduation ceremony; anonymous individuals who have no official legal status in Japan for being born outside of the traditional family structure. These cases pose universal questions around the freedom of expression and what it means to be legally recognized by your nation, which draw parallels to experiences in the US and beyond.

Fumi and Kazu demand a sense of true belonging and reject repressive expectations to withdraw and fit in. Even though their marriage is not sanctioned by the government, the partners wish to raise a child. By chance, Fumi becomes a legal guardian to his orphaned teen client Kazuma. Anchored by mutual acceptance of one another, Fumi, Kazu, and Kazuma's easy alliance inspires them to want to expand their family even further.

Filmed with restrained, fly-on-the-wall intimacy, Of Love & Law—a prize winner at both the Tokyo and Hong Kong Film Festivals—continues gifted documentarian Hikaru Toda's (Love Hotel) observations of a side of Japan seldom discussed or even acknowledged by many of its own citizens. In weaving together Fumi and Kazu's personal stories with their work on high-stakes legal cases, Toda gives us a fully dimensional and poignantly human portrait of grassroots activism.

In Japanese with English subtitles

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