Japan is not a welcoming country for refugees. In 2019, only 44 of the 10,375 people who applied for refugee status — a long and complex process with many bureaucratic hurdles — were accepted. Visa overstayers and others who fall afoul of the rules can be confined in 17 detention centers around the country, where their treatment is notoriously harsh.
This grim reality is reflected in Akio Fujimoto’s “Passage of Life” (2018), a film based on a true story about a family from Myanmar in Japan; and Thomas Ash’s “Ushiku” (2021), a hard-hitting documentary about conditions in a detention center near Tokyo. Emma Kawawada now tackles the subject in the compelling (if a bit long) “My Small Land,” about a family of Kurdish refugees living here.
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