The documentary directed by Justin Taylor Smith and Kaoru Ishibashi – the composer and musician who goes professionally by the name Kishi Bashi – follows Kishi Bashi “as he embarks on a personal quest creating music in locations relevant to the Japanese American Incarceration during WWII,” according to a description of the film. “It is on this journey in which Kishi Bashi comes to terms with his own Japanese American identity and uncovers a myriad of social issues that have gripping modern relevance. Omoiyari is a genre breaking, artistic exploration that fuses history, music, and the complexities of the human condition.”
The film, which premiered earlier this year at SXSW, debuts on the Paramount+ streaming platform in the U.S. and Canada on Tuesday. The following day it premieres in the U.K., Australia, Latin America, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
Kishi Bashi was born in Seattle to parents who grew up in Japan. In OMOIYARI, “he improvises and writes music in an effort to better understand his own identity as a bi-cultural American,” notes the film’s website. “Using never before seen archival footage from the [Japanese internment] camps, mixed with breathtaking visual storytelling, Kaoru weaves a story using history, music and current events to create a portrait of America from the perspective of someone caught between two worlds.”
Critic Bradley Gibson, in a review of the documentary for Film Threat, writes, “Bashi’s music is powerful and compelling, enervating stories from the past that have shaped our present. He shines a light on the darker demons of our nature that will make us captives of fear if not resisted.”
Omoiyari, a companion album to the film, was released in May, the fourth Kishi Bashi has released as a solo artist. In his review of the album, the New York Times’ John Pareles writes, “[T]he album is impressionistic, not didactic; the choruses are about loneliness and lost love, not outrage. Omoiyari grapples with heritage and assimilation, displacement and survival, mourning and coping, all tucked into its plush arrangements. It makes peace with history, but does not forget.”
A Song Film By Kishi Bashi: OMOIYARI is directed by Justin Taylor Smith and Kaoru Ishibashi and produced by J.J. Gerber, Max Ritter and Jim Angelo. Executive producers are Ryan Suffern, Jenny Mills and Drew Wallin; Sheila Nevins is an executive producer for MTV Documentary Films. Music and score are provided by Kishi Bashi; the director of photography is Max Ritter.