‘black in tokyo’ documentary director radically changes the narrative about black experiences abroad

November 28, 2017
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Earlier this month we covered the trailer for Black in Tokyo, a documentary short by Nigerian-American filmmaker Amarachi Nwosu that launched on her platform Melanin Unscripted, following 5 Black subjects living in Japan. This time, we’re back with the full film and a guest post from Amarachi addressing her main inspiration behind the film and why the project is about revolution and changing the status quo.

By Amarachi Nwosu, AFROPUNK Contributor

I have always had the notion that nothing grows in your comfort zone and if you want to see true transformation in your life, you have to be willing to take risks. This was exactly why I set out to create Black in Tokyo and be part of transforming the mainstream narratives on the Black experience abroad.

Many ask me why I chose to follow a more positive narrative in the film and the answer is simple: we’ve already heard the stories of discrimination and prejudice Black people experience around the world. These are stories that are filled in newsrooms and in the everyday media we consume.

But what about positive stories on the black experience?

After all, being Black is beautiful, and it allows me to see life from a unique perspective. As a Nigerian American, I embrace my Blackness both in its struggle and its joy and I recognize that my identity is not one-dimensional. As people of color, identity can become very complex because, although we share similar traits, we are all having very different experiences and come from very different cultural backgrounds.

I wanted to use Black in Tokyo and my platform Melanin Unscripted as a way to promote people to travel and tell their own stories rather than discourage them.

I also recognize that travel is a privilege, so I wanted to create a story that could allow others to live vicariously through the film and learn about other cultures outside of their comfort zone. For example, most Africans and people who are born in developing counties don’t get a chance to travel because the system is set up for them not too. If I were born in Nigeria like my mother, father and extended family, the experience of travelling would be more difficult because it requires a visa, fees, and in many cases the possibility of being denied.

For me, I would never have to go through that experience simply because I am American, but for a lot of people this is their only reality.

An American passport is considered one of the world’s most powerful, with over 146 visa free countries that can be visited. Yet only 36% of Americans own a valid passport, which means that 64% of Americans do not. And just because someone has a passport doesn’t mean they use it for purposes of travel as opposed identification.

This means that the same people who have the most access to travel are also some of the people least likely to see the world outside of their comfort zones, and I wanted to be apart of changing that.

With privilege comes responsibility. It’s important that we use our platforms to expose our story and the story of those we meet. As people of the African Diaspora, we have to change the rhetoric by creating the rhetoric for ourselves. Without the ability to go to places and tell your story, all that other cultures can truly know about your culture is what they have been taught and conditioned to believe through media. By now, we are fully aware that the media doesn’t always do the best job to represent minority cultures. Through travel and documentation, we can use these tools to spark and educate the minds that will shape the world in the future.

Black in Tokyo is just the start. This is about a much bigger revolution that can shake up the status quo and change the game. The revolution will be televised, but only if we create it.