Director: Hikaru Toda
Cast: Kazuyuki Minami, Masafumi Yoshida, Yae Minami, Kazuma Tsujitani
Watch Of Love & Law online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Directed by Hikaru Toda (Love Hotel), Of Love & Law centres on the personal and professional lives of Kazuyuki Minami and Masafumi Yoshida (Kazu and Fumi, for short), the couple who run Japan’s first openly gay law firm. By concentrating on a handful of their cases, the film shines a fascinating light on a side of Japan not usually seen on screen and highlights some shocking civil rights issues.
Toda takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to the documentary, eschewing traditional to-camera interviews (although the subjects often address the camera) in favour of closely following Kazu and Fumi, both at home and at work. This is interspersed with occasional home movie footage, such as a couple of speeches from their wedding, or a music video Kazu makes of himself singing a song he’s written for Fumi.
The pair are extremely engaging, thoughtful screen presences, both fully aware of their position within Japanese society (where anything outside the traditional family structure is still stigmatised) and passionate about their individual cases. Toda also solicits touching contributions from Kazu’s mother (who works at their law firm and reflects that her late husband would have been proud of his son) and from a teenage boy whom Fumi and Kazu fostered, after he became homeless.
The cases form a fascinating and sometimes horrifying snapshot of a little-seen side of Japanese culture. The biggest shock is the fact that you need to be registered as a citizen in order to do things like obtain a driver’s licence, get married or attend university. However, Japan’s ultra-traditional civil structures mean that you can be denied registration if, for example, you were born out of wedlock, or your situation is in any way outside the traditional family structure. Consequently, some 10,000 Japanese citizens are unregistered and we hear from two of them in the film, referred to only as Anonymous A and Anonymous B, since exposure could jeopardise their already precarious legal status.
The failure to conform to the norm forms the basis of most of Fumi and Kazu’s cases. Their most high-profile client is Japanese artist Rokudenashiko (aka Megumi Igarashi), who received global attention, after breaking the country’s obscenity laws with her vagina-shaped pieces (known as Manko Art) – more specifically, she emailed 3D scanner data of her vulva to people who supported her crowdfunding campaign to build a vagina-shaped kayak. In addition, Fumi and Kazu take on the case of a public school teacher who was fired for refusing to sing the national anthem, as well as various other LBGT cases.
Toda’s low-key approach is extremely effective and it’s hard not to be moved by the combination of Fumi and Kazu’s loving relationship, their unwavering commitment to their clients and the note of hope that their continued existence represents for Japanese society, even if, on the evidence of their win rate, there’s still a long way to go.