Talent Press alumna Suchandrika Chakrabarti about the shooting of Kyoko Miyake’s HACKNEY LULLABIES, one of the five finalists of the Berlin Today Award, the short film competition of the Berlinale Talent Campus

Kyoko Miyake’s short, HACKNEY LULLABIES, which has been nominated for the Berlin Today Award 2011, looks at what it means to be foreign in London, but to bring up a child who is British.

Miyake, 34, who is from Chiba, Japan, has lived in England for the past nine years. However, as she puts it, “If I speak, you can tell I’m not British… it’s kind of a barrier.” That’s an obstacle that faces the mothers in her film, but it’s not the only one. As Miyake adds, “there is something lacking in your experience if you didn’t spend your childhood here.”

The idea came to her after interviewing an elderly Japanese lady for her last film, MRS BIRKS’ SUNDAY ROAST (2009). Fumiko Birks has lived in England for over 30 years, but she recalled how she could not sing English lullabies to her children when they were small; she would never be as truly British as they would be.

So is there a consolation for living with that gap? Miyake thinks that there is – the unique diversity and freedom of East London, where she is based, and where the borough of Hackney is located. “It’s liberating for them, in some ways, to be away from their families,” she says. “They miss the support – but with the support often comes judgement.”

Nevertheless, leaving your home and your family can leave some feeling isolated. As Miyake says, “sometimes language issues lead to the mother not engaging enough with the outside world.” The children can become translators – sometimes unwillingly. Miyake noticed during the course of filming that “the kids are already judging their mothers, that they are different from other mums, that they sound different from other mums.” Never helpful when you’re making your best attempt at teenage conformity.

Perhaps it takes maturity to understand the value of a mixed heritage. Miyake was surprised to find that one of her subjects, Michal, a woman from Israel, sang a German children’s song to her child. Her parents were from Germany and Poland, but fled to Israel in the wake of the Second World War. Now, she’s pleased that her daughter is growing up bilingual, in an area where a Jewish centre sits right by the East London Mosque.

As Miyake says, “people are tolerant of sharing their space in East London.” In doing so, they become part of a new community.

HACKNEY LULLABIES will celebrate its world premiere as one of the five short films competing for the Berlin Today Award at the Opening Ceremony of the Berlinale Talent Campus in February 2011.

The deadline for submitting your short film for the next Berlin Today Award 2012 is October 6, 2010. The theme is “Every step you take.” More information can be found at:

Original article for the Berlinale Talent Campus here

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