Former Pictou County woman’s film nominated for Canadian Screen Award

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HALIFAX – Sam Decoste, a NSCAD student with roots in Pictou County, was struck by the way Jia Tsu Thompson told the story of her performance in the Vagina Monologues.

She turned it into a short documentary, one that’s recently been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award.

“I was very surprised. I didn’t know even know what it was,” Decoste, whose parents live in Little Harbour, said.

Her film, Mary & Myself, shows two Chinese-Canadian women, Thompson and Mary Mohammed, preparing for their parts as two ‘comfort women’ in the play, which is based on interviews with women around the world.

Hundreds of thousands of women were forced into sex slavery for Japanese soldiers during World War II and given the name of ‘comfort women’ or ‘grandmothers.’

According to reports from CNN, the women, now in their 80’s and 90’s, are still seeking justice.

Japan has apologized, but has not given direct payments to the victims.

Many of the women ranged from ages 12 to 20 and came from Japan, China, Korea and the Phillipines.

Although Mohammed had never acted before, she felt she needed to serve as a voice for these women.

“The more exposure, the better.”

That doesn’t mean it was easy for her. She found it stressful and difficult to read.

She spent a lot of time crying while she was preparing for the role.

“You feel it.”

One line that sticks out in her memory, several years later, said that the women would be raped by up to 50 soldiers a day and would do it “even when they’re bleeding.”

“You’re not treated as a human.”

Although acting out someone else’s story, Mohammed, who also has ties to New Glasgow, said their personalities shone through.

Thompson was loud and vocal, Mohammed said, while she was more reserved.

Decoste met Thompson when she returned from living in Taiwan for seven years.

She would visit her at a teahouse in Halifax.

When Thompson told her story to Decoste, it was the first she had heard of this piece of history.

Decoste notes that it’s downplayed, and says it has been removed from school books in Japan.

“I'm glad to say that our Canadian government is one of many countries internationally that has called on Japan to take responsibility for these war crimes. I'm also very proud of JiaTsu [Thompson] and Mary [Mohammed] for helping to spread the word - it's an honour to work with them both.”

Decoste says Thompson tells the incredibly sad story in a way that’s candid and allows for moments of humour.

“And that's life really.”

The seven-minute documentary, funded by the National Film Board, was written, directed and animated by Decoste.

It was produced by Annette Clarke.

It’s one of three nominations for Best Short Documentary.

Mohammad was impressed with Decoste’s determination to make the film.

During the process, Decoste ended up in the hospital and needed to have surgery.

Following it, she was having trouble walking and her eyes were affected.

However, she continued to work on the film.

Decoste’s dedication makes the nomination even more important, Mohammed said.

“To know what she went through is so much more meaningful.”

The awards will be broadcast live on CBC from the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto on March 9 at 8 p.m.

On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda


Organizations: National Film Board, CBC, Sony Centre Performing Arts

Geographic location: Japan, Pictou County, Little Harbour China Korea New Glasgow Taiwan Halifax Toronto

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Recent comments

  • Nicole Burgoyne
    February 01, 2014 - 16:39

    Congratulations Sam! Well Deserved!