Tokyo Newcomer [東京に来たばかり ] is a film about a Chinese student and amateur baduk player who arrives in Japan. He’s still struggling with Japanese, doesn’t know anyone, and has no job; when he drops his baduk stones by accident, he meets an old lady who lives in a village close to the city and travels up and down to sell vegetables she grows. Soon, he builds up a familial relationship with her and her estranged grandson.
The movie is simply beautiful, though if you’re used to Hollywood style exposition and grandeur it will be a very different experience. The way the movie flows is slow and quick at the same time, but every scene is lives in the moment. I loved this film, not only for the young-baduk-player storyline, but for the poetry it espouses.
Also, until YouTube-slash-Google take it down, you can watch the entire film on YouTube with English and Chinese subtitles:
Spoiler alert (small one…)
Part of what I really liked wasn’t just the beautiful scenes, but the old lady; it is rare to see a woman baduk player portrayed in such a strong way. The anime Hikaru no Go is one example of women in relation to the game being portrayed as less capable (or in this specific case, just plain bad and stupid) than men. The issue of gender in Go is one that is discussed quite a bit (though, unsurprisingly, lacking depth and mostly by men) on Sensei’s Library, and recently at the Cape Town Go Club; overall, the world of baduk is a reflection of broader society, lacking proper representation on the top due to prevailing gender norms and stereotypes… Of course, the game in general sees under-representation by anyone not male, which leads to sexism at times remaining unaddressed. So I loved to see this unassuming grandma being revealed by the end as a brilliant baduk player and lecturer; her entire storyline is what really drew me to the movie, and I loved the actress’ portrayal.