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MICHIKO: a child born of war

Synopsis: "An untold story of Michiko, who was born of a Chinese mother and a Japanese father during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) in China. The story is based on an interview with Michiko and is narrated by Michiko herself. The histories of children born of consensual relationships during the war have never been told, therefore the project aims to recover their lost voices and life stories."

Michiko’s name was given by her father. The character in the middle of her name was commonly used in Japanese, but during the early twentieth century the term became a point of contention between Japan and China. Throughout the course of the war, the term came to be regarded as extremely discriminatory and offensive by Chinese people. However, when Michiko was born and named, her father was using the term simply as a geographical concept, and it did not have the attached offensive and controversial connotations. Michiko’s father named his daughter with endearment and not with the aim of being derogatory.


Report on the premier of ‘Michiko: A Child Born of War’

Photographs by Michal Korhel

With thanks to Michal Korhel for providing photographs.

On Wednesday 27 June 2018 at the Children Born of War Final Conference in Leipzig, Germany, 'Michiko: A Child Born of War' was premiered to members of the public and academics. The film was shown during the conference’s Network Open Event, alongside a selection of book readings and discussions, as well as an exhibition of photographs portraying Children Born of War from Japanese soldiers and Dutch-Indonesian women, during World War Two in former Netherlands East Indies under Japanese occupation.

The research and oral histories that have been conducted as part of this project are the first investigation into children born of consensual relationships during the Sino-Japanese War. At the start of the project some people held the conception that these children did not exist, and that the project would be fruitless. It is therefore particularly important that research gives voice to forgotten people and histories like Michiko’s. The animation explores the untold story of Michiko who was born of a Chinese mother and a Japanese father during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) in China.

The film was made in collaboration between University of Birmingham PhD researcher Kanako Kuramitsu and story artist Vivian Zhou from Sheridan College, Canada. It is based on an interview conducted with Michiko. Conducting oral histories raises a number of ethical questions, and prompts consideration of the production of historical knowledge, and who controls the research process. For instance, as part of the production process, there were some scenes that had to be cut from the film, in order to condense it. In an attempt to show transparency in the process, we felt it was important that we explained what was removed and explored why. For this reason a fuller script of Michiko’s interview will shortly be made available online, in order to allow our audience to ascertain what information from her history had to be removed from the animation. Similarly, as the film was being developed, some changes had to be made to make it more historically accurate. For example, a change was made to the repatriation camp, which was initially depicted as a prison, whereas in reality, the camp was less strict and formal than a prison. Further, details down to the rain and the colour of the sky were considered in the process, and often used as a metaphor to represent what was going on in the broader historical context - namely the ongoing war. The film itself does not focus on the war, despite it being a project about 'Children Born of War', however we did not want to change Michiko's narrative, and she did not experience the frontline violence of war herself. A final and very important consideration was to not make the visual depiction of Michiko too accurate, as this could have risked revealing her identity.

Feedback was collected at the premier, and the film gathered some really positive and constructive comments, including:

‘A dramatic and complicated story, presented in a sensitive and understanding way.’

‘Powerful and humanising!’

‘Short, animated, colourful…it is perfect to get attention, to learn about such stories and topics. And I think it is understandable for the public and not only academic people.’

Following on from the premier in Leipzig, we are pleased to announce that the film ‘Michiko’ has been selected to be screened in two film festivals in September: Linoleum Animation Festival (6-9 September 2018) and Ottawa International Animation Festival 2018 (26-30 September 2018).

For further information about the film and the histories of children born during the war, a website will shortly be released. This is currently being developed by Rose Parkinson, an MA Global History student working on the project as part of the University of Birmingham’s Postgraduate Research Placement Scheme.

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