Ainu Neno An Ainu, Feature Documentary, 2018
Director, Cinematographer, Editor
Co-Directed by Laura Liverani, Valy Thorsteinsdottir, Neo Sora Produced by Lunch Bee House
AINU NENO AN AINU (meaning “human-like human”) is a documentary project exploring native identity and legacy in contemporary Japan. The film reflects upon what it means to be an Ainu today, in everyday life practices. Originally from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. the Ainu were not officially recognized as an indigenous people until 2008, after a history of both exclusion and assimilation that almost destroyed their society, language, and culture.
Nibutani is a small village in Hokkaido with a population of 400 people, 90% of whom are Ainu, making it the highest Ainu concentration of any town in the world. Located in the Saru river area, a sacred land to its indigenous people, Nibutani has always been a prominent site of Ainu history and culture, visited by foreign explorers and researchers as early as the 1800s.
The film is a “family photo album” of the people of Nibutani. Concentrating on a few people whose lives are intertwined, it addresses the sense of belonging in a community in the process of both preserving and reinventing its own culture, in the aftermath of a prolonged Japanization. Through this ongoing process, the Ainu legacy continues to shape villages and communities across Japan, in Hokkaido and beyond.