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WE ARE HUMAN!: Documentary Film Screening + Panel Discussion at UBC Asian Library

WE ARE HUMAN!: Documentary Film Screening + Panel Discussion at UBC Asian Library

UBC Asian Library and the Department of Asian Studies invite the community to a public event featuring the documentary film, Watashitachi wa Ningen da! ワタシタチハニンゲンダ! (We are Human!), produced in 2022 by director Ko Chanyu, a second-generation Zainichi (‘residing in Japan’) Korean journalist and filmmaker. This award-winning film interrogates Japan's immigration policies, surfacing issues of racism and discrimination. It can also cast reflections on British Columbia’s own disturbing relationship with its migrant foreign workers, a crucial labour force for BC agriculture.

This free public event, offered concurrently as part of UBC’s Arts Studies course, ASTU 201: Canada, Japan and the Pacific: Cultural Studies, includes guest lecturers providing insights into the history of contemporary issues of (im)migration, labour, and racism in Canada and Japan. The event will also feature a panel discussion.

We will be discussing, not viewing, the film at this event. Participants are encouraged to view the film beforehand. UBC students and employees can access the film through the Library. For participants with other affiliations, please ensure to leave your email at the time of registration to receive a private link to watch the film.


  • Dr. Evelyn Encalada Grez, Assistant Professor of Labour Studies Program, Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University
  • Dr. Christina Yi, Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Literature, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

Moderator: Dr. Ayaka Yoshimizu, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of Asian Studies & UBC-Ritsumeikan Academic Exchange Programs, University of British Columbia

Location: Hybrid (in-person at Asian Centre Auditorium or Online)

Everyone is invited to attend this free hybrid event. Registration is required.

For more information, please contact Saeyong Kim, Korean Studies Librarian at saeyong.kim@ubc.ca or Tomoko Kitayama Yen, Japanese Studies Librarian at tomoko.kitayama@ubc.ca.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024
3:30pm - 5:00pm
  All     All UBC Students     Community     Faculty     Staff  
Registration has closed.

Film Synopsis

On March 6, 2021, Rathnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali (aged 33) died in a state of starvation and organ failure following seven months of detention in an immigration detention centre in Nagoya, Japan; she had gone to a police station seeking protection from a violent relationship, but instead she was taken into custody for “illegal overstaying of visas,” after which her requests to return to Sri Lanka and subsequent requests for medical care and provisional release were repeatedly denied. The horrific circumstances of her death sparked a wave of citizen protests and brought the harshness of the Japanese government's legal and institutional control of immigrants and refugees into the public consciousness. This documentary (winner of the fifth annual Muno Takeji Chiiki Minshū Journalism Award; selected Best Documentary, International New York Film Festival 2023) outlines the history of Japan's Alien Registration Act, established primarily to control the Korean population in Japan in the aftermath of WWII, and illustrates how the oppressive framework of control has continued through to the present day, bringing the non-Japanese interviewees to share a common cry: "we are not animals—we are human!"

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