Director’s Note

Path of Dreams is the first step in my mission to share the stories of Velina Hasu Houston with the world through the medium of film. Dr. Houston, as a woman with a multiracial background (she is Japanese on her maternal side and African American, Native American, and Cuban on her paternal side), has a unique perspective in the American pantheon of writers. Her work explores themes of race and identity, engendering empathy in the audience by making the foreign relatable. At the same time, her work instills in her audience the courage to surmount the barriers that separate us by exposing the prejudices that slow society’s progress. Velina Hasu Houston is one of the great American playwrights of our time, and I passionately believe in the importance of using film to magnify her very important voice.

As a child growing up in Queens, New York, I was conditioned not to see differences among people. The diverse ethnic backgrounds, languages, and shades of skin of my friends were as remarkable to me as the various types of cars on the street. As I gained more life experience, I eventually learned that not everyone saw the world in the same way. I have since lived in Japan and traveled extensively throughout Asia and Europe. When one travels, the differences among cultures are apparent, but as a girl from Queens, I have always marveled more at the similarities. These similarities are what I want to celebrate. I share a worldview with Velina Hasu Houston and a passion for promoting that worldview. This is why I have to share her stories.

The legend of Ono no Komachi is one of beauty, feminine strength, social defiance, passion and love. While it is part of the fabric of Japanese society, this legend is not well known in the western world. Even though the story takes place in ancient Japan, the themes and emotions are relevant today, both in the United States and in Japan. Komachi’s inner fire, controversial passion and lack of conformity to the structural rules of ancient society demonstrate the strength and will inherent in women of all cultures and societies, both ancient and modern.

We plan to enter Path of Dreams into festivals around the world, including Cannes Festival International du Film (France), Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia (Japan), Los Angeles Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Aichi International Women’s Film Festival (Japan), Asia Pacific Film Festival, Asian Festival of First Films (Singapore), Boston International Festival of Women’s Cinema, Crystal Awards for Women in Film, Japan Film Festival Los Angeles, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival (Japan), Vancouver Asian Film Festival (Canada), and Women Make Waves (Taiwan).

Once we have completed the festival circuit with Path of Dreams, Velina Hasu Houston and I plan to collaborate on two feature films, also both based on true female stories. First, Dr. Houston has a completed screenplay of her award winning play Kokoro (True Heart), which has already received interest in Hollywood. Kokoro (True Heart) is the moving story of a young Japanese mother struggling to adapt to the very foreign culture of the United States. Challenging the audience to empathize with the accused in the face of a heinous crime, Dr. Houston’s beautiful play illuminates the degree to which culture and spirituality shape our perception of truth and morality.

Second, Dr. Houston and I are both drawn to the life of Sadako Sasaki and the story of A Thousand Cranes. Taking place in Hiroshima in 1955, this story juxtaposes the horrors of war with the celebratory spirit of hope of a young girl stricken with leukemia from the atom bomb. With boundless optimism, she began to fold 1000 origami paper cranes so that, as the legend says, the gods would grant her wish and make her well. Sadako’s young spirit and memory live on today in both the Hiroshima Peace Park and the folded origami cranes that come from the around the world to rest at her statue. Written at the base of the statue is Sadako’s prayer for the world: This is our cry, This is our prayer, Peace in the world. Sadako’s story is one of peace and hope and reminds us of the beauty of hope and family.

No matter how foreign a character or story (historical or dramatic) may appear, the human spirit is universal. It adapts, grows, and loves in every part of the world, in times of pain or in times of peace. These stories of Sadako Sasaki (A Thousand Cranes), Fumiko Kimura (Kokoro (True Heart)), and Ono no Komachi (Path of Dreams) may have been born to the Japanese culture, but their voices and strength of spirit are universal, unifying and timeless.

-Tamara Ruppart, Director, Path of Dreams