We began back in 2006 with an idea for a documentary, and we put everything we had into it – we bought video equipment, spent months in São Paulo meeting Brazilian families who were planning to move to Japan, then spent years in Japan following and sharing the migrants’ lives. The migrants shared their life stories, experiences, and emotions over the course of 10 years.
This feature documentary has been a decade-long labor of love – and we need your support to complete it!
After filming over 100 hours of material in Brazil and Japan, we spent hundreds of hours editing and re-editing the film. We screened rough cuts and got lots of excellent feedback. We consulted with top film producers and festival programmers – they told us that the film has great potential, and that we should do high-quality post-production and submit it to top international film festivals.
That brings us to where we are today. We need to raise $50,000 to cover the costs of post-production and film festival submissions. If we reach our funding goal, we will be able to complete the film and screen it at festivals in the U.S. and Europe, as well as in Japan and Brazil.
This project has been a tremendous challenge – and now is a very exciting time, as after a decade of work, we are finally nearing our goal. With your support, One Day We Arrived in Japan will be a success. Please watch the project video and read the information below – the film synopsis, filmmaker bios, Q&A, and budget. Thank you so much for your consideration and support!
Aaron Litvin (Producer and Co-Director)
Ana Paula Hirano (Co-Director)
An intimate epic spanning 10 years and 10,000 miles, One Day We Arrived in Japan reveals how people’s dreams and expectations stand up to a grueling new reality on the other side of the world. Three Brazilian families leave their homeland in pursuit of a better life in Japan – what will happen to each of them? Over the past 25 years, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians of Japanese descent have gone to Japan. This unique documentary brings to light the gripping personal stories behind a major transnational phenomenon.
Filmed in Brazil and Japan from 2006 to 2015.
In Portuguese and Japanese, with English subtitles.
(USA, work in progress, approx. 80 min.)
(Producer / Co-Director / Co-Cinematographer / Co-Editor)
Aaron Litvin graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Latin American Studies, earned an M.S. in Sociology from the University of São Paulo, and is a Ph.D. candidate in Luso-Brazilian literature and Critical Media Practice at Harvard University. Litvin spent 30 months in Japan and 24 months in Brazil during pre-production and production of One Day We Arrived in Japan. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil and a Japanese Government Research Scholar at Sophia University in Tokyo.
(Co-Director / Co-Cinematographer / Co-Editor)
Ana Paula Kojima Hirano earned her undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of São Paulo, where she researched global labor market transformations and also studied visual anthropology and cinema. During pre-production and production of One Day We Arrived in Japan, Hirano spent two years in Brazil and one year in Japan, where she studied at Sophia University in Tokyo on a Japanese Government Scholarship. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Luso-Brazilian literature and film theory at Harvard University.
Marlom Meirelles has produced and directed several award-winning films. His short film The Bricked Girl (A Emparedada da Rua Nova) was screened at Cannes and other international film festivals. Meirelles won a script competition with a project entitled Among Women (Entre Mulheres, 2012), a documentary on women’s rights and gender. In 2015 he produced and directed the short film Button Eyes (Olhos de Botão), a fictional suspense/thriller set near his hometown in the countryside of Pernambuco, Brazil.
Q&A WITH AARON LITVIN (PRODUCER)
Q: How did you come up with the idea of making a film about Brazilians who go to Japan?
A: Back in 2003, when I was an undergraduate at Harvard, I studied the fascinating history of Japanese migration to Brazil and the more recent phenomenon of Brazilian migration to Japan. Brazil has the largest population of Japanese descendants in the world outside Japan, and during the past 25 years, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians of Japanese descent and their families have gone to Japan in search of higher salaries and a better life. I received grants and fellowships to do several years of field research in each country, and I wrote articles and theses that I presented at academic conferences. But in the process, I realized that while my sociological research was good for identifying trends and making generalizations based on surveys and interviews, it wasn’t really showing the lives of individual migrants and families. In 2006, I was in São Paulo finishing a year of research, and was about to go to Japan for 18 months of research there. It occurred to me that, just as I was about to move from Brazil to Japan, there were thousands of Brazilian families about to make the trip. I wanted to meet them, show their faces, and give them the opportunity to tell their stories – not just through interviews, but by following their journeys across the world for several years and letting them share their own lives and experiences. I bought video and audio equipment and, together with co-director Ana Paula Hirano, set out to find Brazilians who were about to go to Japan. That’s how the documentary was born. At the time, we imagined that we would see some major changes in the lives of the participants, but we didn’t foresee that this film would be a decade-long journey and that we would witness in great intimacy such dramatic and unexpected turns of fate.
Q: How did you find the three families that are in the film?
A: The great challenge of this film was that instead of just going to Japan and interviewing Brazilians there, or providing information and statistics, we wanted to follow people’s entire immigration experience from the beginning. Ana Paula and I wanted to find would-be migrants while they were still in Brazil – to hear their hopes and expectations as they prepared to make the journey – and then follow them to see what would happen when their dreams were confronted by the harsh reality of working in Japan. To find the participants, we went to places in São Paulo where people would go if they were preparing to move to Japan: employment agencies, Japanese language classes, and NGOs that host workshops about working in Japan. We interviewed dozens of families – some of them decided not to migrate, or didn’t get their Japanese visas, or decided to quit the documentary – and we ended up following five families in Japan for the first two years. Three of those families made it into the final film, including one family that we followed until 2015. Actually, that last family was already in Japan when we met them in 2006, but they were very expressive in sharing their story, and they also had lots of home videos that they shared with us.
Q: How many people worked on the film, and what was it like to make it?
A: The crew was just me and co-director Ana Paula (we had another cinematographer with us for only one or two of the initial scenes in Brazil in 2006, when we were still learning to operate the video equipment). This allowed us to become very close to the families in the film, which I think was fundamental to sharing their stories. Ana Paula and I often stayed at their houses during filming, and we did some the most powerful interviews at one or two in the morning. I think that this intimacy is one of the defining characteristics of the film. So, although it was tough to do everything ourselves without a crew, I think it was actually important for our relationships with the participants and the immediacy of the film. There’s an expression in Portuguese, “Quem não tem cão caça com gato” – “If you don’t have a dog, you have to hunt with a cat.” We had almost no money, and we had no crew, but we had the will to make the film – and I think that, in the end, we were able to do much more precisely because we did it ourselves. As for the editing, we did a lot of it ourselves during production, but once filming was finally complete in 2015, Marlom Meirelles got on board as a co-editor. Marlom is a talented editor (he’s also an excellent producer, director, and screenwriter) and he has made his own fiction films, so he’s very good at telling stories in a compelling way and constructing powerful scenes and sequences. He also brought fresh eyes to the approximately 150 hours of footage, so he added a valuable new perspective. So, it ended up being a team of three. But we also got support and advice from hundreds of people from around the world over the course of the past decade. It has been quite a saga.
Q: Why did the film take ten years to make?
A: The concept of the film was to follow people for many years so that we could see the changes in their lives. Ana Paula and I imagined that the experience of moving to a very different country on the other side of the world would be transformative for everyone, and we wanted to capture that – but we didn’t know how it would affect each family, and we needed to allow a lot of time for life to take its course. We wanted to do something with the film that no journalistic report could do: intimately follow people’s lives for many years, showing how their hopes and dreams withstand a challenging new reality and unexpected outcomes.
Q: What is the style of the film?
A: We wanted the film to be as direct and transparent as possible, with the focus on the migrant families and their stories. For this reason, there is no voiceover narration or added music or sound effects, and there are also no “talking heads” – everyone who appears in the film has a direct connection to one of the three families. Errol Morris has said, “Style doesn’t guarantee truth.” I certainly agree with that, and I don’t pretend in my film that the camera isn’t there or that every scene is somehow “pure” or natural. To the contrary, I believe that the filmmaker can and should sometimes be a bit disruptive, creating situations and opportunities for truth to surface – that’s what Joshua Oppenheimer did so beautifully in The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence, and it’s what I aimed to do in One Day We Arrived in Japan, especially in the final minutes of the film. At the same time, I guess I do appreciate a sort of simplicity and purity in documentaries: I believe that a powerful scene or interview conveys its own emotions and insights, without pseudo-poetic voiceovers or tear-jerking cello tracks. Essentially, we wanted to give the migrant families a series of occasions to share their lives and tell their own stories, without external material. We did that by recording verité footage and by creating opportunities for reflection, such as by showing the families past interviews and footage of themselves.
Q: Who is producing the film, and how have you funded it until now?
A: The film is entirely self-produced. I used some of the funds from my research fellowships – a Fulbright in Brazil, and a Japanese Government Scholarship in Japan – to purchase the equipment for filming and editing and to pay for travel and production expenses. We need to raise $50,000 for post-production expenses to complete the film – final editing, color correction, sound mix, graphic design, and DCP creation – and submission fees for international film festivals.
Q: What are your goals for the film, and where will it be screened?
A: We believe that the film is a compelling story with universal appeal, and we hope to screen it at film festivals around the world – in Europe and North America, as well as in Asia and Latin America. Everyone in the film industry who has watched the rough cut is very excited about the film, and we’ve been advised to submit it to top international festivals, so that’s what we plan to do. We don’t know yet where the World Premiere will be!
The budget includes post-production expenses, international film festival submission fees, and Kickstarter fees.
Sound editing: $10,340
Sound mix: $6,400
Image conform: $7,380
Color correction: $13,120
DCP creation: $1,820
$39,060 + 8.875% tax = $42,527
Film festival submission fees: $3,800
TOTAL EXPENSES FOR PROJECT: $46,327
Kickstarter fees, estimated: $3,756
TOTAL FUNDRAISING GOAL: $50,083
If we meet our fundraising goal, we hope to bring Bruno from Japan for the World Premiere!
Risks and challenges
It has been quite a journey! If we reach our fundraising goal, we will be able to complete the film, and hopefully screen it at top festivals around the world. We are aiming high, and we are absolutely committed to making the best possible film and screening it at festivals in North America and Europe, as well as in Japan and Brazil. It's Bruno’s dream to travel the world – and, with your support, we hope to complete the film and bring Bruno to the U.S. and European premieres. This project has been a tremendous challenge – and now is a very exciting time, as after a decade of work, we are finally nearing our goal. With your support, One Day We Arrived in Japan will be a success. Thank you so much!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)