Words Spoken and Unspoken / by Sarah Kakusho

We’re too reliant on words. So many words carelessly slip through people’s lips as they waste away breaths of air on vague thoughts and boorish complaints. Do people really think about the words that are coming out of their mouths? America is all too loud, filled with people too low context to try to understand a person beyond verbal communication.

i’m a victim of a society that requires straightforward explanations for everything.

Words unspoken sometimes have the greater impact when we try to convey something far deeper than what can be expressed in words. It’s one way to directly tell someone your intentions, but it’s another way to show them, make them think. Stuck in between one low context culture and one high context culture, I seek middle ground. Who exactly am I trying to reach out to?

Be that these thoughts are my own, I’m certain somewhere, someone in the world shares the same thoughts as I do. There are some things that just cannot be conveyed verbally. Of course, because we try to create tangibility with the intangible. Thoughts, feelings, memories. But are these enough to transcend language barriers?

“I would never make a picture especially for foreign audiences. If a work can’t have meaning to Japanese audiences, I as a Japanese artist am simply not interested. How can a man make a film for another culture without a keen feeling for the people, their likes and dislikes and the way they think and act? If a director could live in a country for perhaps two or three years, could learn the language and customs, then he might be able to make some kind of film.” – Akira Kurosawa

Looking back at this quote while going through old notes from Capstone, I felt my candle of learning being rekindled in such a way that school has never done before. With 30-some days left in the States, I’ve been preparing for my studies in Japan in ways beyond language. While my primary focus is to study Japanese, my other purpose is to become part of the culture, to understand Japan. As I shift and focus my concentration in the film industry to Japanese and Japanese-American film, I’ve realized my understanding of Japan is still far too little to even reach the hearts of the Japanese.

My current project, Project ON.FA.EL, will include three short films on music, life, family and friendship focusing on Japanese and Japanese-Americans. Two of the three films happen to be set in Japan. Be it ethnocentric or not, for now I only want to concentrate on what I know best, or at least what I think I know, and will learn in this next year abroad. My goal for this project is to explore how are cultural upbringings shape our identity as a person. With or without words, I hope Project ON.FA.EL will transcend Japanese and American borders despite differences and that both will find some meaning in what I hope to convey.