Though it is already too late to catch Genevieve Clay-Smith’s Shakespeare in Tokyo at ReelAbilities, Cinetalk wanted to draw particular attention to the delightful short film.
On the surface, it is a slice of life about the wonderment of a tourist in Tokyo. Beneath that veil is so much more. Ben has Down Syndrome. He also has a bit of an A-hole for a brother. While big bro tends to his business calls and makes it seem that Ben is a burden, the latter wanders off in a foreign land and has what could only be likened to a fairytale adventure.
The scenes are well shot to capture not only the noisy, hustle and bustle of Tokyo, but also the more subtle moments of tranquility. Ben gets on a train without a specific plan, and his wandering takes him to known landmarks as well as hidden gems, such as a small Monjyayaki restaurant.
[For those not in the know, Okonomiyaki is a famous Japanese dish. The soul food is somewhat comparable to tossing ‘kitchen sink’ ingredients onto a teppan grill to form an omelette-meets-pancake. Basically throw on a bunch of veggies, sometimes noodles, perhaps some protein, and bind it with egg and flour. Monjyayaki is a more liquidy version, eaten with a minuscule spatula type utensil. Most tourists rarely get to experience such a dish, due to lack of exposure. Ben is a lucky guy!]
As a solo tourist barely able to pronounce Arigato, Ben certainly makes friends wherever he goes. Clay-Smith does not show the darker side of disability, where we might expect the locals to treat Ben with distasteful curiosity or repulsion. Instead, she has given the viewer 20 minutes of light, endearing moments between one human and the world around him. And maybe that is the point. Ben is human, He recites Shakespeare like nobody’s business, and has a knack for getting strangers to smile. Should we look past the fact he has Down Syndrome? Is it even relevant? That is something Ben’s big brother learns through a series of selfies his sibling texts to him throughout his adventure.
In the end, Ben is just like everybody else. And maybe a little bit more 😉
And bonus – a cameo appearance by the legendary Sonny Chiba.
Shakespeare in Tokyo is available on Youtube thanks to the Short Shorts Film Festival in Japan, who were instrumental in helping the film reach an audience.