I Love You

Date of release: December 28, 2001


Story / Synopsis:

Asako is a charming, beautiful but hearing-impaired woman who lives a peaceful life in a small Japanese town with her fireman husband, Ryuichi and their precocious daughter, Ai.

One day Ai's classmate sees her and Asako using sign language and scornfully tells everyone that Ai's mother looks stupid and ridiculous. Asako is devastated to see her daughter being bullied because of her disability. How can she stop this?

Asako decides to join a deaf theatrical troupe "Hands", which uses mime and sign language interpretation, entertains both their fellows and the hearing community. Asako finds that even the deaf-mutes can act out their fantasies on stage! She also hopes that this new activity will help Ai become sympathetic to her way of life.

Asako's first job is to recruit new talents. Morita, a pantomime artist who is not deaf, and a deaf young girl, Natsumi, join the troupe. Various family members of the core group also contribute, even Ai helps out by interpreting between mime artist Morita and the other cast members.

After much work, "Hands" is invited by the government to play "Beauty and the Beast" in a festival. Vigorous rehearsals begin. Lots of problems arise, mostly communication difficulties and cultural contrasts between the deaf and the hearing. But one by one these problems are overcome and everyone learns to work together in harmony.

A young cast member, Takashi, is very attracted to the beautiful new recruit Natsumi. On the day of their public performance, Takashi proposes to Natsumi but her hearing parents refuse to give their consent. They claim that marriage between deaf people will produce hearing-impaired babies, and is doomed to incomplete lives marred by unhappiness.

To persuade the unyielding parents, Asako reveals that she did have some hearing before, but when she became pregnant, she was advised that she could become totally deaf. Despite the risk, Asako and Ryuichi decided to have the baby. Their healthy daughter and happy marriage are offered as proof that love and determination can overcome any barriers.

Unfortunately, Ai overhears the exchange about Asako losing her hearing when she gave birth. Profoundly shocked, the little girl runs away in tears, the burden of blame and responsibility weighing heavily on her tiny frame. When Asako finally catches up with Ai, she explains that despite losing her hearing, "I'm the happiest mother in the whole world. I still remember the joy of hearing and feeling your first cries when you were born." Ai, profoundly moved, offers her most precious gift to her mother, "I give you my ears. I will be your ears and your voice."


Other Information:

From the Director - Yutaka Osawa

About 10 years ago I made a film about a deaf baseball team, my first real interaction with the deaf and hearing-impaired. I was surprised by the amount of interest it generated here in Japan and one of the main questions the deaf kept putting to me, was why I didn't use a hearing-impaired cast. They pointed out that it just doesn't look natural; it is a hearing-impaired environment that hearing people presume it to be. When this film came up, I wondered how to overcome the mistakes I'd made in the past. I decided to ask Yonaiyama, the sign-language coach on the set of my previous film, to join me as co-director.
It took us over a year and many trials and tribulations to arrive at a script that appeals to both the hearing and the hearing-impaired. I was determined to rectify my previous casting error by ensuing that all the actors and actresses portraying the deaf people in the film were hearing-impaired or totally deaf. Where possible we also employed the hearing-impaired in the crew. There are no working professional deaf actors in Japan, so it was necessary to hold auditions.
I was very pleased and excited to find the beautiful, talented and lovely Akiko Oshidari to play the leading role. Akiko has a talent that goes beyond being deaf and I'm sure that with work on her part she could become a regular on Japanese screens.
The cast and crew spent two solid months working together and soon there was no distinction between the deaf and the hearing as we labored to finish the film within the allocated budget and schedule. It is my sincere wish that this film will overcome the barrier that separates the deaf and the hearing and bring them closer together.



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