Director: Hikaru Toda
Originally released in 2017, the final Queer East Docs4Pride offering is from Japan, following a lawyer couple who have established a firm in Osaka specialising in fighting for minority and civil rights. Hikaru Toda’s documentary, Of Love and Law, balances the domestic experience of being in a same-sex relationship with cases the couple work on to explore the link between diversity and political activism.
Kazuyuki Minami known as “Kazu” and Masafumi Yoshida referred to as “Fumi” have been together for 15 years, and are legal guardians to Kazuma, a teenager they took in when his care home closed. Filmed over the course of several months, the couple consider what it means to be a family as a social and legal entity, while supporting a number of causes that attempt to redefine or clarify the definition of human rights in the Japanese constitution.
Toda segments her story, cutting together scenes of life at home and the day-to-day routines of Kazu and Fumi’s life, with three pertinent cases being tried in court. These are distributed throughout the story with the outcomes revealed towards the end of the film, a technique which creates a little drama in a structure that otherwise takes a kaleidoscopic approach.
Living and working together suits the couple, as they assess cases and discuss legal challenges together; Kazu’s elderly mother even works for the firm but there is no indication of the generational divide that has characterised other documentaries in the series. Having no knowledge of what homosexuality was she initially wondered if it could be cured like measles but is now entirely supportive, a tolerance she insists her late husband would also have felt.
Fumi is the more emotional and hints at a tougher childhood and worries that either he isn’t good enough or that he is too easily overcome by external pressures, while Kazu is the activist, giving public lectures on equality and teaching law classes. He is also a singer-songwriter who makes a music video in his spare time. They bicker a little, but Toda stresses the abiding affection they have and how entirely they meet the definition of family.
At 94-minutes, Of Love and Law is a little rambling, there to shine a light on a number of key issues for minorities in Japan which does dilute the overall message. It is given shape and purpose by the cases, including that of artist Rokudenashiko whose vagina-shaped art is considered obscene – look out for a supporter dressed in a plushy vagina costume – and whose work has been trolled on social media, a teacher prosecuted for not standing for the national anthem in school and an unregistered women in her 30s looking to establish a lawful identity.
Free to stream until 27 July, Of Love and Law is stronger on the legal and social activism than the snippets of political canvasing that seem tangential to the overall narrative, but as a conclusion to the Docs4Pride series Kazu and Fumi make for interesting subjects, genuinely good people actively fighting for causes they believe in through their law firm, and striving to be better people.
Available here to stream until 27 July 2020