World War II is undoubtedly the most tragic global event of the 20th century. Apart from serving as the symbolic warning for future generations, it also became a source of inspiration for various representations in many cultural domains, including cinema. We all are probably familiar with the “war film” genre which encompasses action-adventure stories, anti-war manifestos, and tales of trauma. Mizuki Toriya’s animation is none of these. Her short film “How Can You Know Where to Go If You Do Not Know Where You Have Been” serves as an intimate testimony of her grandmother about the difficult times when Japan engaged into war with the United States and Great Britain.

How Can You Know Where to Go If You Do Not Know Where You Have Been” is now screening at the Japanese Avant-garde and Experimental Film Festival:

The 6-minutes-long film is a recorded conversation between Toriya and her grandmother that is accompanied by paintings animated in a stop-motion fashion. The grandmother recounts from her personal perspective the beginning of the war, how she lived with her family in the city of Kobe, the subsequent destruction of Kobe, the family’s life in the suburbs, and the arrival of the American forces after the war’s official end.

“How Can You Know Where to Go If You Do Not Know Where You Have Been” appears to be a deeply personal and delicate recounting of World War II experiences. Although the viewers may initially long for a more standard visual component (the video recording of the conversation), the animation actually enhances the viewing experience. The grandmother’s tender voice combined with simple, yet eye-pleasing, paintings by Dean Aizawa are enough to get the viewers’ attention.

The message of the short film is quite clear: ordinary people do not make wars, but governments do. The grandmother rightfully remarks that peace is the best and no country should ever go to war. We, on the other hand, should learn from these rare testimonies of people who experienced the atrocities at first hand.

Try to find some spare 6 minutes in your busy schedule and check out “How Can You Know Where to Go If You Do Not Know Where You Have Been” if you can. It is a peaceful story that will certainly leave you thinking about the past. Its importance is even heightened by the recently commemorated 80th anniversary of World War II’s outbreak.

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