Kishi Bashi’s ‘Song Film’ Documentary ‘Omoiyari’ Explores the Composer’s Journey of Discovery and Connection

During times of difficulty and hardship, sometimes words lack the power to convey that emotionality. And where words fail, music succeeds. For Kishi Bashi, an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, he knows this fact very well. Upon viewing a media interview linking the Muslim immigration ban and U.S.-Mexico immigration conflict with the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, Kishi Bashi began to contemplate the events of the incarceration in relation to his heritage. So, he set off on a journey to create music at sites relevant to Japanese American incarceration. There, the story of “A Song Film by Kishi Bashi: Omoiyari” began. Originally commissioned by Nu Deco Ensemble to create a multimedia piece on the topic of Executive Order 9066, Bashi and co-director, Justin Taylor Smith, thought that they’d film a behind-the-scenes short film during the project’s creation. However, the film quickly grew in scale as the two discovered a deeper story within. 

“In the end, we all want the same thing: omoiyari” Kishi Bashi says in the trailer. In a world that doesn’t always make sense— or feels outright cruel —  Kishi Bashi’s mantra through it all is “omoiyari,” which can be loosely translated as “empathy backed by action.” Touching on topics of anti-Asian discrimination offset by the COVID-19 pandemic, this timely film shows us the value of “omoiyari” in our current society. 

Witness the magic of “omoiyari,” the unifying power of music, and ruminations on Asian American identity for yourself. On Oct. 6, MTV’s “A Song Film by Kishi Bashi: Omoiyari” will open in New York at the IFC Center and Los Angeles at the Laemmle Glendale. A national rollout in select cities will ensue this weekend and throughout fall. Planned screenings/performance tours with Kishi Bashi will begin at the end of October, along with the release of the film’s soundtrack. Until then, you can watch the trailer here.