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A JOURNEY ACROSS THE GLOBE: AN INTERVIEW WITH MASASHI KAWAMATA Hinly Wong - May 22, 2019

While the Cannes Film Festival is situated in France, it is very much an international event, involving people from all walks of life. In this day and age where the film industry has been so heavily globalized, the appreciation for different cultures has become a necessity. As an artist honing his craft, Masashi Kawamata understands this necessity. The 22-year-old actor and screenwriter’s journey has spanned miles, both figuratively and literally, from his roots in Chiba, Japan, to his studies abroad in London and finally, his first arrival to the 72nd Cannes Film Festival.

Kawamata started his acting career at a very young age. At 3 years old, he was placed in Model Language Studio by his mother, where he was trained in English theatre and acting. He then continued to hone his craft, staying with the studio until he left to focus on his higher education at the University of Waseda’s International Political Science program. Kawamata never abandoned acting, however, and maintained his passion by being involved with his university’s English Drama Society, Waseda Production. Kawamata’s early exposure to the performing arts was integral to the development of his love for acting: “Most people start to learn the [fundamentals of acting] at the age of 18 or 19 – quite an adolescent age – but in my case, it was at the age of 3. So it just became my second nature.”

Kawamata has also developed a newfound passion for screenwriting, and it has since become a clear facet of his career alongside acting. “I never really imagined myself as a writer, but now I’m kind of picturing myself as a kind of half-actor and half-writer.”

“It’s a very silly story,” Kawamata began, after I asked him about the birth of his screenwriting career. “I was at the Nikon Film Festival and a friend of mine, who is a filmmaker, he just asked me, “can you write a story for me?” and I was like, “Okay, um, I will, but I can’t guarantee the quality of it.” But I did it. That’s where I found [screenwriting] very intriguing.” Since then, he has written four more scripts, all for short films, and is currently working on revising the second draft of his first feature film script. Kawamata believes it’s important for artists to be open to branching out, and to explore new options in spite of fear. “You have to always take risks and have your stakes a little bit higher. That pushes you forward.”

Kawamata moved to London at the age of 21 in the Fall of 2018, where he officially launched his acting career, quickly building an impressive film resume of at least 10 short films during his first few months, including roles in Karma (2018) and Tea at the Table (2019). He is currently working on a short period film about an Asian son and his financially-struggling mother. “I found it very intriguing,” Kawamata commented. “And how it incorporated Asian discrimination in the UK, which is very, very rare nowadays, but still a huge deal decades ago. And we’re bringing this story to the modern era.”

Part of the reason why Kawamata became a screenwriter is because of the visible lack of Asian representation in UK cinema. “I’m gonna write a story that I’ll just act in,” he declared, stating that if a particular story isn’t being written, one must tell it themselves. His upcoming feature film script is a 19th century period piece about a young interracial couple, a Japanese man and a British woman, in the UK – a first for the Japanese at the time.

Between these projects, and Kawamata’s own experiences, there is a visible juxtaposition of different cultures and peoples. “In the filmmaking in London, especially amongst the younger filmmakers, they don’t mind having diversity in their films. There is always a certain underrepresentation of the Asian people in the cinematic world, but now there is encouragement from the younger generation, in which I am a part of. And it’s just blissful that I was born in this era, amongst these wonderful filmmakers.” He has also expressed a desire to perform in more multicultural roles in the future, and delve deeper into stories interwoven with a diverse mix of characters and backgrounds.

Kawamata is still young, and his career as an artist has only just begun, but his unique experiences have given him numerous stories to tell. The film industry has many different voices, each with their own distinct identity, and Kawamata is simply another vibrant thread on that intricately woven tapestry of talent.

“You only have to be you. And your uniqueness is key. Your uniqueness is power,” he stated. “But you must be open. Only then can your uniqueness be [embraced].”