We in the West like to believe we are so advanced compared to the other parts of the world. So untrue, I don’t even know where to begin. Part of the power dynamic that the largely white part of the world is that we do things better than others. There are thousands of examples of that not being true. Plus it is not really a competition, is it?
In Japan, after a woman has had an abortion there is an outward way for her to grieve. Not so in the West. Taking the lead from a Buddhist ritual which believes that each human is a vessel into which water is poured and then it leaks back out until death. In this particular belief a human becomes fully filled with this water of life at age seven.
There is a word for the yet unborn which is mizuko. Translated it means water child. The word is also used in the case of miscarriages and abortions. When one of these happens the Buddhist ritual involves the purchase and display of figurines that represent the unrealized life. Once bought these figurines have a particular place they go.
Here during the 14 minute short film, we follow the story of a Japanese-American woman, who grew up in New York City. She has a boyfriend and gets unexpectedly pregnant. Not being ready for a child, she decides to have an abortion.
During this time she thinks back on her years living in Japan. Years remembered as carefree. Musing on how the Japanese view life and death.
The ritual does not judge the woman. Does not see having an abortion as right or wrong; it just provides an outlet for grieving.
We hear the narration with the calming sounds of running water in the background. Languages spoken alternate between English and Japanese. The animation, which is a combination of stop action and hand drawn watercolour, is beautiful and changes to reflect the emotions of the story at the time. Wavering between black and white and vividly coulourful.
The way the subject is looked at asks us to reexamine our ways of thinking, what it means to be a woman and freedom of the individual. Abortion is, as it should be, depicted as a nuanced decision and emotionally loaded. It shows how a woman who knows it is her only possible decision can still feel overwhelmed by sadness after going through it. You can both not regret the decision, but also feel confused and in pain emotionally.
Having screened at several festivals including SXSW, Mizuko (Water Child) has earned several prizes.