Japanese documentarian explains creative process

(Kyoko Gasha is the director of “Mother’s Way, Daughter’s Choice,” and is currently working on her third documentary. Photo by Andrew Willoughby)

Kyoko Gasha gave students career advice and talked about the production of her film, “Mother’s Way, Daughter’s Choice.”

On Nov. 7, the Ecumenical Center was filled with students from Framingham State and Showa Women’s Institute.

Gasha said her dream after immigrating from Japan was to “travel the world and to talk about Japan” and its social issues.

She wanted to make documentaries about Japan, but as a result of the “displacement” caused by the 9/11 attacks, she was forced to relocate eight times before she could settle down and start filming.

“Mother’s Way, Daughter’s Choice” focuses on the trend of modern Japanese women moving to New York City in order to pursue careers unavailable in Japan and as an escape from the traditional Japanese upbringing.

Gasha explained that she chose to open the film with a “drawn out” scene of her mother serving tea in order to introduce international audiences to the “beauty of the Japanese culture.

“You need to have a certain way everything is structured,” she said, “that is so beautiful, but at the same time, suffocating.” It’s an exercise in being open to cultures different to one’s own and a way to fully appreciate the culture in which one was raised.

Gasha took two years to film all of her footage and conduct interviews for “Mother’s Way” and another two to edit it.

When she set out to create the film, she didn’t have a set structure. After watching hours of footage, she then “had to find the story,” said Gasha. She didn’t choose the title until the film was almost completed.

The interview subjects speak in both English and Japanese. Gasha said when she thinks or talks in English, she’s “a little bit of a different person” than when she does so in Japanese. She would ask each person the same questions in different languages in order to “see the two dimensions of one person. … It was fascinating, more than I would have thought.”

She recalled asking someone why she thought she was so successful as a Japanese woman in America. In Japanese the response roughly translated to “I don’t know,” but when asked in English, her response was half an hour long.

In regards to finding a job, Gasha urged the audience not to select a company “because they are famous” or because “your parents said so. … Be honest about your feelings.” While exploring job opportunities, “you will feel the click. You will feel that match.”

Gasha said the key to success in any field is “refining” and “attention to detail.” If one keeps at their career and “gives 100 percent of [their] time,” they will make something beautiful.

She likened work to baking an elaborate decorative cake. Sometimes, before you can make such a cake, one has to practice by making cupcakes.