Karera ga Honki de Amu toki wa

Director: Naoko Ogigami
2017 | Japan | 127m
GENRE: Asian/Pacific Islander | Comedy | Drama | Gender | Male-to-Female | Relationships | Transgender | Youth (18 & Under)
SECTION: World Cinema


Tomo is an 11-year-old girl whose mother is woefully incapable of caring for her. When the child awakes one morning to find her mother gone—apparently off on a bender—Tomo seeks refuge with her bookstore-clerk uncle, Makio. Before bringing her home to his apartment, Makio cautiously informs Tomo that he’s got a new girlfriend, Rinko, and that there’s something different about her. Rinko is a transgender woman, whose maternal instincts kick in immediately upon Tomo’s arrival—she offers the child a warm meal, a spot on the couch to play Wii, and a bed to sleep in.

While Tomo is at first hesitant to accept Rinko’s gestures of affection, she is quickly won over by the tenderness that this new mother figure in her life offers, not to mention the exquisite delicacy with which Rinko does everything from packing lunch to knitting—a craft she teaches Tomo as a way to channel the girl’s anger and sadness. Woven closer every day as a family unit, the three characters are confronted with a wrenching decision when Tomo’s wayward mother returns, looking to be reunited with her daughter.

Playing Rinko with deep empathy and subtlety is the male Japanese superstar singer and actor Toma Ikuta. The young Rin Kakihara, who is present in nearly every scene of the film, is exceptional in the role of Tomo. The film, which won a Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, breaks new ground in Japanese queer filmmaking, telling a poignant and affirming story about family, affection, and acceptance.


Japan Film Festival of San Francisco

  • Language: In Japanese with English subtitles. ASL interpreter present