by director/co-writer Atsuko Hirayanagi
When I was a six-year-old elementary school student in Japan, there was a girl in my class who never spoke, not even a word, or a small yelp—even though she was perfectly able. One day our teacher got so frustrated with her and decided to provoke her, by revealing her secret. "I know you're loud and quite a hooligan at home. Your mother told me!" she said.
There was a collective gasp in the class, if I may dramatically put it, and everyone was staring at the girl. Her face got so red. I thought she'd cry, but she held it together. She still didn't speak. I was thinking—'WOW.' I was excited and scared at the same time, imaging in my head this quiet girl's transformation at home into a violent 'monster,' like in a scary Japanese fable.
I wrote about this classmate in my application essay for film school, when I was asked why I wanted to be a filmmaker. My answer was something along the lines of wanting to tell this girl's story, and to give her a voice. In retrospect, the genesis of Oh Lucy! goes back to this little girl.
When I was a high school exchange student in the U.S., barely speaking English, I too became the 'quiet girl.' I never spoke in class, paralyzed by my fears—a fear of being inadequate, of being laughed at, or viewed as an anomaly. So I shut up. It was way easier to be quiet and to just be the person people expected me to be. The 'quiet Asian girl' doesn't alarm people. It was my mask, and also my armor.
In this film, Setsuko finds her voice through 'Lucy,' who gives her the permission to be fearless, loud and even a 'monster,' if that's what she needed to be. She alarms people, so people know that she exists.
Filmmaking to me is about showing and sharing our fears, so we don't feel alone. If movies allow us to remove these masks, even for a short moment, maybe we'll realize that we are all the same, scared little chickens beneath our masks, and we can laugh about it together… even with strangers in a dark theater.