Naoko Ogigami, Japan
Tomo is a young girl living an unstable life consisting of unwashed dishes and supermarket onigiri (a filled rice ball wrapped in seaweed). Her mother is unreliable, often coming home late and drunk. One morning, Tomo discovers that her mother has left her for good, so she packs up her meager belongings and moves in with her uncle and his girlfriend Rinko. Tomo is excited to meet Rinko, but is shocked to find out that she is transgender. Close-Knit is an emotional journey of a young girl in search of love and stability and her struggles when she finds it in an unconventional home.
One of the most heartbreaking films of the festival, Close-Knit takes its time to really hit you. Director Naoko Ogigami lets the story slowly unfold as Tomo and Rinko learn to first trust and then love one another. In a lot of ways, it is surprising just how open Japanese society is towards Rinko, that she has the legal right to change her sex on her documents after her surgery, that she would then be allowed to marry, and that she is able to have a normal job. However, the film does not hide from the fact that, while Rinko may have legal rights, society is not so forgiving. Even Tomo faces the consequences of the cruelty of society due to her love for Rinko, and this is made all the more heartbreaking by both of their difficult pasts. Close-Knit is a truly touching and beautiful film which deserves to get a wider release.