Hamish Downie Has Five More Questions with Felicity Tillack

Editor Note: Hamish has another in his series of Five Questions With…

Hamish came up with this idea because he was accumulating too much material for his Famous News Sushi column and asked if he could do these mini-interviews. Why would we say no?

Thank you Hamish for being such a trooper for us. We really appreciate all for your hard work.

Let us know what you think of these interviews in the comments below.


TGG: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed today! Now, I’ve shared your work a few times over on my column, “News Sushi”… but, for those readers who don’t know you, could you please introduce yourself?

FT: Hi, I’m Felicity Tillack. I am originally from Australia but I’ve been living in Japan since 2006 and it has become my home. I started making videos in 2012 on my Youtube channel Where Next Japan. They were little travel videos introducing different festivals and places around Kansai and grew into longer documentaries as I started becoming more interested in the people who were spreading or participating in Japanese culture and their motivations. The I Am Ninja, Why did you become a monk? and Behind the Scenes Sumo documentaries are examples of these. Two documentaries – New Japanese citizens and 3rd Culture Kids in Japan really started me thinking more deeply about the concept of identity and how it is tied to the culture you grow up in as well as your ethnic roots and background. Working as a teacher in international schools here, I’ve seen so many kids struggle with their identity. I taught many biracial kids, with one Japanese parent and one foreign parent who, in their struggle to feel legitimate and accepted within Japan, would often strongly reject their non-Japanese heritage. So, a lot of experiences and observations started to come together and slowly built into a story.

Watch “New Japanese Citizens” here:

Watch “3rd Culture Kids” here:

TGG: And now you’re venturing into narrative fiction. Can you tell us about your debut feature-length film, “Impossible to Imagine”?

FT: Impossible to Imagine is a story about change and acceptance. Japan is a country and a culture I love very much, but there are times when it can be very exclusionary. In the past, it was difficult to be accepted as legitimate unless you were racially, culturally and legally Japanese. In the same way in Australia there used to be a very strong white, British national identity that has now changed to accept a wide range of faces and backgrounds as being Australian, I think Japan is beginning to change. So in the story, you have two characters: Ami Shimizu, who is from Kyoto, and runs a kimono rental shop, and represents very traditional Japan; and Hayato Arai, who is biracial, was born in Japan but spent time in Australia, and represents non-traditional Japan. The two of them fall in love, but have very different ways of seeing the world, which leads to clashes and disagreements. The main question of the story is whether they can change enough for each other to make it work.

Trailer for “Impossible to Imagine”:



Impossible to imagine 想像が出来ない from The Movie Agency on Vimeo.

TGG: How influential were the actors on the story?

FT: The actors hugely influenced the film. I interviewed William Yagi Lewis as I was developing the role of Hayato, and a lot of his feelings and his life experiences were built into his character. And with Ami Shimizu, I needed someone who could inhabit this traditional Kyoto world and play the part convincingly. Without someone like Yukiko Ito, who studies Japanese traditional dance, plays shamisen and can dress herself and others in kimono, it wouldn’t have worked at all. William was a first time actor but very diligent in rehearsing and preparing for shoot days. Yuki is a pro from the stage but so generous. They became good friends. We had a lot of fun despite the hectic schedule, and their chemistry really helps sell the romance in the film.

TGG: Sounds like a great group of people. What’s next for you?

FT: For my next project, I would like to film a sequel to Impossible to Imagine, called Impossible to Forget, which would be about letting go of the past, and how to move positively into the future, but this time with a more rural setting. I’d also like to try making a musical that questions the work/life unbalance in Japan and its effect on families. But, we’ll have to see how the current pandemic crisis goes.

TGG: Yes, I hope it all calms down soon. How can we watch the film and otherwise support you?

FT: Everyone apart from those in North America, Australia or Italy can now rent or buy the film via Vimeo with full English subs. For those within North America, the film will soon be available to stream or buy on DVD. And within Australia and Italy, it should not be too much longer. Keep up to date with the film and myself via Facebook, twitter, Instagram or Youtube.



NOTE: In the interests of full disclosure, Hamish Downie is a producer of the film “Impossible to Imagine”


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