You are here

Sweet Bean

2 posts / 0 new
Last post
Jonathan Tam
Topic replies: 88
Topic Posts: 28
Sweet Bean

Sweet Bean is one of the recommendations made by Kerim Yasar. It's directed by Japanese film maker Kawase Naomi and is available on the streaming platform Kanopy (which my students affectionately call the "Walmart Netflix platform" - despite the fact that they use their 10 free movie play credits each month without fail). As a quick synopsis: Sweet Bean follows a Sentaro who makes dorayaki (japanese pastries) and serves them through a 3-person restaurant front. He works alone, but eventually meets Tokue, who is interested in working for him. She realizes that he actually uses packaged pastry filling - which is an absolute no-no for her - and so Sentaro almost feels obliged to hire her when he realizes that he is doing the equivalent of serving frozen patties at an American fast food restaurant. I won't go into much other plot details beyond that due to the fact that it is definitely a film worth watching and would definitely appeal to modern audiences and students today.

The film itself explores the background of how the Japanese treated Leprosy through the repeal of a 1953 prevention program. It affects namely one of the characters and the policy shifts her entire life including her ambitions. There is an incredibly beautiful level of (bittersweet) catharsis and redemption that film produces and it communicates it in a way that allows almost anyone (at least anyone old enough) from any upbringing to understand. At one time, we all had dreams or ambitions and they changed as a result of certain circumstances. In some cases, those circumstances can be good; but in others, they can be bad. And without spoiling much, for Tokue and Sentaro, they were bad. But, the film creates a silver lining to each character's arc.

For the classroom, the film definitely offers insight into the Japanese disposition towards illnesses in the mid 20th century as well as how those attitudes have changed. The repeal of the 1953 Leprosy Prevention Law affected thousands of people and it's a moral for teaching future generations how dangerous signing policies can be. Despite the fact that lawmakers might not have changed in their realization of this, it seems as though the common people have a better understanding of this. And despite the fact that (spoiler) Tokue shows signs of leprosy, she is treated with far more empathy than sympathy - resulting in her being an inspiration to her community rather than a stigma.


Kimberly de Berzunza
Topic replies: 77
Topic Posts: 7
Sweet Bean

Although I was not able to find Sweet Bean on Kanopy, I went ahead and paid for a rental on Amazon Prime. I'm glad I did; it was worth $5 for my husband and I to see it.

I will not discuss the plot, since Jonathan did already, but one thing I noticed was what Professor Yasar mentioned about Japanese film creating space with slower pacing and a use of empty space. Even though the examples we saw of this in class were from 1949, this was the case in Sweet Bean as well.  It did not make the film feel slow, however; it made it feel poignant and sweet.

For use in the classroom, I also would use it to show the Japanese attitudes toward leprosy, but also the attitude toward making something right for the pleasure of others, and of helping others and being part of a community. This film shows that everyone faces their own struggles, and must learn to overcome their difficulties in their own way, but also that community can help share in this burden and make life more enjoyable. We have been talking about this movie since we saw it- a sure sign of being worthwhile.