The world is a bloody scary place sometimes, and even our beloved Short of the Week section can’t escape that fact. Too often recently, our shorts have dealt with heavy topics like body image, government surveillance and the ongoing refugee crisis.
Thank God, then, for Yoko Okumura. Her six-minute documentary, Strawberries Will Save the World, is the perfect antidote for our modern times: a joyful film fuelled by a pure, unadulterated love.
Okumura’s mother, Yuko, really likes strawberries. She has strawberries on her phone cover, strawberries on her shoes, strawberries on her glasses; her home in Indiana is awash in vibrant red, with fruits hanging from every surface.
It’s a strange infatuation — Yuko’s husband Shohaku, who makes a brief appearance, seems as bemused as the audience — yet Okumura hints that it may come from a deep connection with, maybe even homesickness for, her family’s home country. The number 15, which Yuko sees routinely in everything from licence plates to her phone’s clock, is associated with strawberries in Japanese culture. Yuko even makes a trip to Japan to visit a community of fellow strawberry enthusiasts.
Everything from the kawaii animation to the upbeat score is twee in the extreme, but it never feels ironic or mocking. Rather, it feels like a perfect representation of Yuko’s nature and philosophy, which she explains in the film’s closing moments: “Keeping ourselves happy is a huge job and a very profound job. If you can keep yourself happy, that will save the world.”
Maybe it won’t be strawberries that save your world. Maybe it’s cats. Or the banjo. Or the films of Wes Anderson. But whatever your passion, Yuko’s message is worth remembering: love what you love, and never, ever apologise for it.
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DIRECTOR: Yoko Okumura
PRODUCER: Christopher Ruiz
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Bennett Cerf
ANIMATION: Isabelle Aspin
MUSIC: Ihui Wu & Alexander Noice
SYNOPSIS: Yuko’s love for strawberries knows no bounds. She believes they will save the world.