5. Close-Knit (彼らが本気で編むときは)
Inspired by director Naoko Ogigami’s observations about the LGBTQ community in the U.S., 2017’s Close-Knit is the story of a fifth-grade girl named Tomo who goes to live with her uncle and his girlfriend Rinko. But the girl soon realizes that Rinko is, in reality, a transgender woman. Tomo’s own views are challenged by her experiences with Rinko, and she and the rest of the family face discrimination from a community who may not be willing to see beyond their own comfortable conventions.
4. Midnight Swan (ミッドナイトスワン)
This 2020 film by director Eiji Uchida made waves at the Japan Academy Awards when it was nominated for nine awards and took home three, including Picture of the Year and Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. The film stars Tsuyoshi Kusanagi (member of the former supergroup SMAP) as Nagisa, a trans woman who left her hometown in Hiroshima to work as a dancer in Tokyo. Nagisa’s life is interrupted when her niece, Ichika, travels to Tokyo to live with her. The film explores themes of discrimination, identity, expression, and passion as a true connection forms between distant family members.
3. Kalanchoe no Hana (カランコエの花）
Director Shun Nakagawa’s 2018 short film explores the complex issues of sexual identity through the lens of high school students. When a class of sophomores are given an LGBTQ awareness course, tensions run high as they begin to suspect there may be queer students among them. The film also touches on the troublesome power of peer pressure, an issue most of us are all too familiar with.
2. Hush! (ハッシュ！)
2001’s award-winning dramedy by Ryosuke Hashiguchi follows the story of Naoya and Katsuhiro, two men whose relationship is upended when a young woman, Asako, asks Katsuhiro to father her child. The film considers the true meaning of commitment as its main characters struggle to be true to themselves, and each other.
1. Queer Japan (クィア・ジャパン)
This 2019 documentary directed, edited, and co-written by Graham Kolbeins profiles a range of individuals in Japan who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Over 100 interviews were conducted for the film, the ensemble of which includes artists, academics, activists and other members of the community. Kolbeins considers the film “a series of character studies” that celebrate the unconventional lives and challenges of a community that is sometimes still overlooked.