It seems each day has no shortage of bad or frustrating news. Often I’ll skip over to Short of the Week for respite from reality, only to see the featured film is a brilliantly-executed but bleak film about loss, suffering, death, or some combination of all three. In the face of all this, today we are delighted to share Yoko Okumura’s Strawberries Will Save The World – a fantastically lovely short profile documentary about a woman who loves strawberries. That’s it. You’re welcome.
“Make it cute. Make it really, really, cute”
Yoko’s film focuses on her mother, Yuko, who is obsessed with all things strawberry. Taking us through what she loves about them, the community her passion has made her part of, and why she thinks the fruit can save the world. If it sounds light and frivolous then I am describing it correctly, because it is a wonderfully cheerful and cheering profile film, without a hint of mockery or malice across the entire piece.
The presentation brings out the sweetness and adorable nature of Yuko’s obsession; the film is absolutely dripping in ‘cute’ but in a way that gets the balance just right so it doesn’t spill over into being sickly sweet, but remains adorable. I have tried to watch this film without smiling and have failed every time. This is a deliberate effect, and Yoko told us that her direction to her crew from the start was simple – “Make it cute. Make it really, really, cute”.
It pulls this off perfectly; the music, the animation, and of course the energy of strawberry-loving Yuko herself. Even a brief appearance by Yuko’s husband is charming, while allowing the film a gentle touch of bemused bewilderment. Yuko’s husband Shohaku is only briefly in this film, but he is closely related to its inception.
Some years ago, Yoko made a much different film focused on her family, looking at the relationship between her Buddhist father Shohaku, and her brother (entitled SIT, and worth watching). During the filming of this, it was too difficult to avoid all the strawberries around the house, so they shot some footage with Yuko to explain this. When editing SIT, it was clear that Yuko’s strawberries were a film in themselves, and this footage and more captured over the following years, produced this short.
Strawberries Will Save The World may sound like quite a bold claim as a title, but it is easy to believe that the world would be a much better place if we all could find something to give us as much happiness and community-spirit as strawberries give to Yuko!