If you are over 5 ft tall and 12 years of age, you may have considered or even taken part in a summer’s activity called detasseling. No frolicking on the the beach or riding the tea cups at Disneyland or touring, say, Universal studios for you. It’s off to a farm in Nebraska or in Iowa to learn the value of work in the cornfields underneath a sweltering July sun!
Meet Taeko, the main character in Academy Award nominated Isao Takahata’s animated film Only Yesterday. Taeko, a 27-year-old unmarried young woman from Tokyo is going on vacation. Rather than a trip abroad, Taeko determines to pick one of humanity’s oldest crops: fields of safflowers. This trek is not the first of her rural adventures; the vacation before, she harvested rice. Despite warnings from friends that she is not getting any younger and needs to settle down, Taeko, packs her bags and travels by train to meet and work with her second family in the countryside.
What is fascinating about Takahata’s Only Yesterday, is the feature of a universal conundrum: how to make peace with the past. Specifically, how to reconcile pain and humiliation that happened to you and that which you caused other people.
Each of us has a desire to reach into the past … to reconstruct it … to look all pretty, neat, and clean. Do not be fooled: The Past? It is a powerful phenomenon, and Takahata strongly suggests some aspects of yesteryear will follow you around as would an abandoned child until you attend to it. In her attention to only yesterday, Taeko contemplates exactly what her fifth-grade self is telling her to do.
Bring your Kleenex because you will be surprised how Taeko develops her own wings—right there on a colorful safflower farm.
Made 25 years ago in the legendary Studio Ghibli, Only Yesterday is making its film debut here in North America. Daisy Ridley of Star Wars fame voices the adult Taeko and Allison Fernandez dubs Taeko in the 5th-grade.
Only Yesterday plays through May 5th at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.
Also showing through May 5th at the Ross are City of Gold, Hello My Name is Doris, and Miles Ahead.