Gaijin: A Brazilian Odyssey

The Luso World Cinema Blogathon

Welcome to the Luso World Cinema Blogathon co-hosed by Spellbound by Movies and Crítica Retrô! I’d never heard of the term “luso” or “lusophone” and unlike our hosts, I have no direct connection to Portugal or Brazil. However, as a Japanese American, I feel an affinity for the story of the Japanese who immigrated to Brazil about the same time as my ancestors did to the United States. Gaijin: A Brazilian Odyssey [Gaijin – Os Caminhos da Liberdade] tells that story.

Antônio Fagundes

Tizuka Yamasaki co-wrote (with Jorge Durán) and directed the 1980 film based on her grandmother’s journey from Japan to Brazil in 1908, played by Kyoko Tsukamoto. Amazingly, that same grandmother acted as technical advisor on the film giving it an undeniable realism. In fact, the film shares a certain tone with Italian neo-realism in its depiction of an underclass. Like their counterparts who immigrated to Hawaii, the Japanese immigrants to Brazil were recruited to work in agriculture with glowing promises of good jobs. Their Brazilian dream turned out to be as illusory as the American dream when they encountered the harsh conditions of the plantations where they toiled as indentured laborers.

Roger Ebert gave it a “thumbs up” rating saying it told the story “in simple and direct terms … It’s not a great movie but it’s an honorable and absorbing movie.”

The film’s success led to a 2005 sequel, Gaijin – Ama-me Como Sou, also written and directed by Yamasaki. It tells a similar story of immigration from Japan to Brazil and stars Tamlyn Tomita (The Karate Kid, Part II [1986], The Joy Luck Club [1993]) In the generational saga, the first generation faces discrimination from the Brazilians but eventually finds acceptance as they become Brazilians themselves.

Music by Egberto Gismonti Cinematography by Edgar Moura Film Editing by Karen Akerman, Diana Vasconcellos Costume Design by Jorge de Tharso

The complete film is available on youtube in Portuguese