FILLING IN THE GAPS ­— A film still from “Blue Garden” showing a faded sepia photo of five men in a field. courtesy of Natalie Murao

Filmmaker Natalie Murao contemplates the conversation she never got to have with her grandfather in “Blue Garden” (2022, 5 minutes). The hybrid-doc-animation tells the story of Murao’s grandfather, a Japanese Canadian fisherman who was incarcerated during World War II.

The Vancouver-based filmmaker first thought about creating the film in 2020 after she returned home at the start of the pandemic.

“I was just looking through family albums, and that’s when I saw a photo of my ojiichan on the tomato farm,” Murao told the Nichi Bei News in a Zoom interview. “I had always seen these images, but I never really thought about them too deeply, but that’s when I realized, ‘Oh, maybe I don’t like tomatoes because of that, because he was working on the tomato farm during internment.’”

Murao’s grandfather passed away nearly two decades ago when she was nine years old. She initially hoped to have him, voiced by Hiro Kanagawa, tell his incarceration story by himself in the film. However, the Yonsei filmmaker incorporated herself and her mother into the film to show the gaps in knowledge she had about what had happened to her grandfather during the war.

“I realized what I kind of want to show more of was the gaps in between my knowledge of (the wartime experience). And in order to show those gaps, I had to insert myself in it, and I had to insert my mom who was the generation between me and my grandfather’s generation,” she said.

At CAAMFest, the film precedes Rea Tajiri’s “History and Memory: For Akiko and Takashige.” Murao said she was “stoked” to be featured with the 1991 experimental documentary, saying it played a major influence in her own film.

“Blue Garden” will screen as a part of the retrospective for “History and Memory: For Akiko and Takashige” at the SFMOMA’s Phyllis Wattis Theater, 151 3rd St., San Francisco on May 20 at noon for CAAMFest. For tickets and more information visit:

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