The Ainu are the aboriginal people of Hokkaidō, Japan’s large northern island. Following centuries of oppression, discrimination, cultural invalidation, the Ainu were officially recognised as indigenous people of Japan in 2008. AINU MOSIR (after the Ainu name for Hokkaidō) tells the story of an Ainu boy (Kanto Shimokura) in search of his own identity apart from his ancestry. The film is naturalistic to the point of feeling like a documentary; we see Kanto’s desire to leave his village, which is a popular attraction for Japanese and overseas tourists alike, and his further confusion at being asked to take part in the upsetting Iomante animal sacrifice ritual by his surrogate father figure (Debo Akibe). The film is captivating, quietly emotional and very beautiful, the Ainu’s bond with nature reflected in stunning landscape photography, their culture and traditions presented with reverence and without judgement. This understated gem of Japanese cinema is now available on Netflix so seek it out. SSP
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