The Confucian concept of filial piety refers to the correct way one should respect, obey and care for their parents and ancestors. Many Asians have practiced it for generations. Yet no matter the culture, father and son relationships can be challenging as seen in three recently released films about dads and their progeny.
A film about children behaving like adults and adults behaving like children, ”
Boy” takes place in a New Zealand Maori community in 1984. When eleven-year old Boy (James Rolleston) is left in charge of his younger brother and a host of cousins while his grandmother goes out-of-town, his father unexpectedly appears. Having served seven years in prison, Boy’s father is anxious to find something he’s left behind, but it’s not his children.
Showing off his newly found dad to playmates, Boy is repeatedly disappointed by his father’s public antics. Even when Boy obeys his commands, like calling him Shogun instead of dad, he feels rejected. As for Rocky (Te Aho Eketone Whitu), he believes he possesses magical powers stemming from his mother’s death while giving him life — the first and last time he saw his father.
A devoted Michael Jackson fan, Boy fantasizes about his father taking him to a concert, another promise that remains unfulfilled.
Director Taika Waititi (who also plays Boy’s father) adds comedic charm to an inherently sad story about neglected children. The poignancy of scenes like Boy talking to his pet goat or visiting his mother at the cemetery is offset by the hilarity of Boy’s father attempting machismo by swinging from a tree, knife in mouth. The choreographed Maori war dances mixed with movements from “Thriller” are genius.
In the documentary, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” Jiro is not the only one dreaming of sushi. So are his two sons. At 85, Jiro Ono is still the star chef of his restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, housed in a Tokyo subway station. Winner of the coveted 3-star Michelin review, the restaurant is so exclusive it only seats 10 with a waiting list for reservations that must be made months in advance.
While workaholic Jiro is obsessed with creating perfect sushi for his customers, his sons have given up their own dreams to follow their father’s — at his behest. A demanding perfectionist both in making sushi and training others to do it, Jiro believes he’s prepared his boys for life by involving them in his business.
Yet eldest son Yoshikazu, who works alongside his father, laments that he wasn’t allowed to go to college. And, younger brother Takashi has opened a second restaurant at his father’s orders.
Close-ups of the painstaking preparation of flawless sushi, including the selection of the finest fish and rice, are handled with expert camerawork. But the most memorable scenes are of Jiro riding his bike, when he looks at peace.
Another son forced to live his father’s dream is Yeshi Namkhai in the documentary “My Reincarnation.” But for Yeshi, that dream extends to an entire Tibetan village awaiting his arrival as his father’s reincarnated dead uncle, Khynshe.
Born in Italy to a Catholic mother, the biracial Yeshi grows up unable to relate to the Tibetan Buddhist Master he calls dad.
“I have no emotional relationship with my father,” he says about the man who commands thousands of followers.
With the 1959 Chinese invasion of Tibet, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu escaped and later founded a Dzogchen community in Tuscany. Devastated at learning the uncle he left behind died in prison, Chogyal discovers through a lama that his uncle lives on in his son, Yeshi.
But Yeshi is skeptical. Instead of accepting his birthright, he rebels — becoming an IBM salesman, marrying and having children. Despite his father’s pleas, he refuses to visit Tibet to be enthroned as his great uncle’s reincarnated spirit. But when his father becomes ill, Yeshi has an epiphany.
“We have problems with our fathers,” he says. “Then, we become fathers and still have problems because we are men and we are stupid.”
Filmed over 20 years by Jennifer Fox, “My Reincarnation” intimately portrays filial piety at its best.
“Boy” screens at the Varsity theater on March 23. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” screens at the Varsity on March 30. “My Reincarnation” plays in select cities. For more information on “Reincarnation” visit ww.myreincarnationfilm.com .