A documentary that is not only informative, but also engaging and entertaining. “The Ones Left Behind: The Plight of Single Mothers in Japan” is a film about the contradictions in rich first world societies. Why is there so much poverty in such a rich country like Japan? Why does Japan have some of the highest levels of child poverty among developed nations? And why are the Japanese people themselves unaware of this? When you’re doing well in the world you tend to have your head in the sand, or are simply too selfish to even care.
Filmmaker Rionne McAvoy, is an Australian born martial artist who works as a professional wrestler living in Japan (no, we’re not making that up!) for the last 17 years. He comes from this film from an outsiders/insiders point of view. He understands the Japanese culture and ideology, but he’s also looking at it from the perspective of a foreigner. He sees the beauty of Japan, which is fitting because it makes him the right person to do a documentary about the ugliness of it.
The beginning moments of this excellent feature documentary sets the stage of perception vs reality. Told through excellent narration and images of Japan, the film talks about how most people perceive Japan to be – The acute business acumen. The progressive technological landscape. The perception of how Japanese people think, feel, and take in the world. Most look up to Japan if you bring it up in daily conversation. We are constantly influenced by their culture in the Western world. As I am writing this, my 4-year-old son is across from me playing Nintendo. Japan is in our everyday life.
Then Rionne spends the rest of the documentary contradicting that perception through various interviews with mothers, daughters, and sons living in Japan who feel “left behind” from that Japanese culture salesmanship of what they are selling to the rest of the world. And what amazing interviews he got. There is another perception, perhaps true, pure fiction, or something in between, that the Asian culture doesn’t share their feelings, especially feelings of frustration and/or a “poor me” attitude. They are too proud of that type of language. That is certainly NOT true with the interviews Rionne produced. In fact, there are so many amazing segments with the various families he showcased that this could be a TV series. An episode for each family.
I’m so curious how this film is being received in Japan and their thinking that a Caucasian Australian made it.
Of course this film has an easy parallel and thematic to the Western world, and of the USA especially. There is so much bullshit going on in these rich and powerful countries. And this film shows that it’s not just North America who has these problems.
Simply said, this is a well made film. Can’t wait to see what Rionne McAvoy does next. Perhaps an allegory of sportsmanship, façade, and pure entertainment seen through the lens of professional wrestling. The best story of the last year in film, TV, or the like has been the “The Bloodline / Samy Zayn” angle in the WWE. An ongoing conflict of what family and loyalty actually is, mixed with humor, difficult dilemmas, and of course great wrestling matches. I’m sure there is even better stories going on in the very popular Japanese wrestling circuit that we don’t even know about here in America!
By Eli Manning
Directed by Rionne McAvoy
Produced by F.J. Fox & Ayuri McAvoy
Watch the Audience Feedback Video of the Film: