Today at Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society‘s AGM, I had a privilege of watching the BC premiere of Kiri’s Piano, a short film by Yellowknife filmmaker France Benoit.

Kiri’s Piano originally is a folk song by James Keelaghan from 1988. The song is based on a true story of Kiri Ito, a Japanese Canadian woman who lived in West coast of BC back in the ’40s. Like many people of Japanese descent, Kiri was forced to relocate to an internment camp during the war. The song is about her piano, her defiance and dignity. You can listen to the song here.

Of all of Kiri Ito’s joys, the thing she loved the best
Was to play her prized piano when the sun had gone to rest

Kiri lived a quiet life with her husband and three children. She loved playing her piano, but because of the war, all their possessions were confiscated and they were forced to relocate. When the neighbour went into their house after the eviction, there was one thing missing from their house.

So many years have come and gone since Kiri’s relocation
I look back now upon that time with shame and resignation
For Kiri knew what I did not that if we must be free
Then sometimes we must sacrifice to gain our dignity

We were fortunate to have filmmaker France Banoit herself with us today.  She said the film subject pretty much sought her. She initially found out about Kiri through a talk with her late husband after they saw David Suzuki, where he broke down crying talking about internment camp. Her husband said it reminded him of James Keelaghan’s song, Kiri’s Piano. She shared many coincidences she encountered while in production of this film, and she was convinced that she was meant to do this. “And if we are very lucky, we get to find out why.”

Kiri's story also inspired artist Claire Kujundzic to paint this piece too

Kiri’s story also inspired artist Claire Kujundzic to paint this piece too


It’s a very short film, about 11 minutes, shot entirely in Yellowknife, where France lives. It is a poignant story to illustrate the struggle and defiance of Japanese Canadians during the WW II. She said the support from Japanese Canadian communities have been enormous in making this film.

One thing France said that struck me today was this:

“People say these things (Internment and relocation of Japanese Canadians) will never happen again. But looking at what’s going on out there in the world, I’m not so sure. History has tendency to repeat itself.”

“Kiri’s Piano” trailer

There is one more free public screening at Uvic while France is in Victoria.

Landscapes of Injustice and the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives are pleased to present

Lunch and Learn- Kiri’s Piano   A Japanese Canadian film presentation with filmmaker France Benoit

Monday, February 2, 2015

12:30 – 1:30 pm

Harry Hickman Bldg. Rm. 116

University of Victoria

Free and open to the public