BEING GOOD (KIMI WA IIKO) / DIR. MIPO O (JAPAN)

BEING GOOD (KIMI WA IIKO) / DIR. MIPO O (JAPAN)
NETPAC JURY PRIZE
 
 
A beginner teacher has a hard time dealing with a whole class of primary school children: one is already writing love letters, another can pee right in the middle of the class-room, the third enjoys asking tricky questions, no one seems eager to listen to the teacher and absolutely everyone feels bound to use the legitimate right to leave for the toilet. To top it off, he has to fight off constantly dissatisfied parents with their complaints: the teacher’s overly attentive gaze scared her son, the teacher was not polite enough when addressing her boy, the teacher must do something about the sakura petals which make the yard next door look untidy. The young teacher does not get angry, hysterical or desperate. He openly acknowledges his blunders with a disarming smile and tries to do his utmost to meet the impossible requirements. He is sincerely eager to help his students, naively believing that his visit alone will make a step-father change his attitude to the little boy, but when the thoroughly drunk man slams the door in his face, the sensei remains standing in the street utterly puzzled.
 
An elderly woman suffering from the initial stage of dementia is politely (after all this is Japan and not St. Petersburg) but firmly stopped as she is leaving the supermarket with the groceries she has forgotten to pay for. An autistic boy is hysterical because he has lost the key from his house. A little girl knows perfectly well that for the slightest misbehavior her mother will tell her off and probably beat her when they get home. The young woman is not sadistic though, slapping her daughter does not give her pleasure. At some point the arm raised to deliver a blow freezes in mid-air, and the woman rushes to the bathroom where, choking back tears, she clutches her wrist with cigarette marks – the memory of her own “sweet” parents.
 
Violence gives rise to violence. How can one break the vicious circle? The answer is simple: good must give rise to good. This is the unfashionable conclusion the filmmaker arrives at. OK, so we can’t save the entire world, but we surely can help someone next to us. So the teacher gives his students an unusual assignment: they are to go back home and get somebody to give them a hug (cats, though undoubtedly part of the family, sadly do not count). Having experienced this pleasant feeling, the child will want to share it with somebody else, and the world will become a slightly better place. So? Have all naughty children become perfect students eager to catch the teacher’s every word? Has the autistic boy recovered? Has the old lady stopped showing symptoms of her ailment? Of course not. The children are as noisy and derisive as ever, but shyly and sullenly they acknowledge that yes, the experience was pleasant for them. And for some reason you are tempted to believe that our world will indeed become a little bit better. Mipo O is convinced that every human being is inherently good, but somehow we are afraid to disclose it and are too worried about what others might think about us, often sacrificing the wellbeing and even happiness of our nearest and dearest for the sake of the “image”.
 
The Festival Daily