Nakagawa Shun (director, writer, editor)
July 14, 2018
Kalanchoe is an LGBT-themed film that made its debut at Rainbow Reel Tokyo 2017. The film received the festival’s highest honor, and since July 2018 has been making rounds at theaters nation-wide as a limited release.
(minor plot details follow)
The premise of the film is simple. One July morning, a class of second-year high school students receives a lecture about sexual orientation and gender identity by the school health teacher.
However, the teacher’s intention to create awareness and understanding backfires when she mentions that an LGBT person might even be in their class. A few students cling to this idea and begin to speculate about their classmates, which leads to a gay witch hunt.
The film follows Imada Mio as Ichinose Tsukino. Tsukino initially seems indifferent after the lecture but is forced to consider her stance when she learns that there is indeed an LGBT person in her class. Will she choose to shut them out or protect them? And even if she wanted to protect them, how can she do so?
Imada Mio’s performance as Tsukino succeeds in depicting the myriad reactions that Japanese students might have regarding LGBT – feelings of curiosity, discomfort, and when learning the truth about someone, betrayal. Tsukino actions speak louder than words, and her internal dilemma is made clear through her expressions and body language. The film is also beautifully shot with immersive long take scenes that crescendo in tension and perfectly capture the struggle of adolescence.
Kalanchoe also raises a moral dilemma. How should children be taught about sexual orientation and gender identity in a way that won’t cause more problems than it solves? And how can teachers prevent students from ostracizing their peers? While such a lesson may be self-affirming for LGBT students, simply saying ‘love is love’ and ‘it’s okay to be yourself’ isn’t enough for all students to fully understand the difficulties that their LGBT peers may face. This is a problem that teachers will eventually have to face as LGBT issues begin to be raised in moral education classes and sexual orientation and gender identity become more frequently mentioned in health classes across Japan.
Kalanchoe is now showing at select theaters across Japan. Watch the trailer below, and visit the movie’s official website for more details.