The death of the American dream is a typical trope a variety of movies have tackled, mostly to the somber tune of disappointment and sadness. However, trope or not, there are still a plethora of stories on the subject matter still remaining to be told. What will separate wheat from chaff is the angle a filmmaker chooses to approach it. Just as Kohki Hasei avoided “poverty porn,” in the case of Hokkaido born Fukunaga Takeshi, that angle was not a tale of bitter realities in an unfamiliar country, but the resilient and determined spirit of immigrants looking to better their lives in a new country. Considering the controversial issue immigration has become recently, one might think Out of My Hand to be extraordinarily timely were it not for the fact Fukunaga shot the movie, his debut feature, in 2013. Feeling “out of place” in Japan, Fukunaga moved to New York wanting to meet and learn about people from other countries. After studying film production at Brooklyn College, he worked as an editor for a documentary about Liberian rubber plantation workers. This opened his eyes to the unknown people laboring with dignity despite severe conditions to make the products we use everyday. Laborers and immigration ultimately became the theme of Out of My Hand upon reflection about his own experiences as an immigrant in New York.
Working as tree tapper on a rubber plantation in Liberia, West Africa, Cisco struggles to make a decent life for himself and his family. Despite his and his fellow workers’ attempt at unionizing, the rubber corporation maintains a stranglehold over their lives, keeping their dreams of a brighter future at bay. But when a well-timed visit from an American cousin opens Cisco’s eyes to a better future abroad, he seizes the one chance he has to change his life, and risks everything for a journey to New York City. He finds himself in Staten Island’s small, close-knit Liberian community, where fellow ex-pats help him line up work as a taxi driver. From behind the wheel of his Yellow Cab, a brave new world, full of new people and experiences, is revealed to Cisco. But just as he begins to adjust to his new life, he meets Jacob, a former Liberian child soldier, who unexpectedly forces Cisco to confront the demons of his own difficult past. (Presskit)
Fukunaga’s connection to Liberia is still unfinished. He intends to complete the documentary which first inspired him. Its director, and Out of My Hand cinematographer, Murakami Ryo, died of malaria shortly after returning from the Liberian shoot. Though devastating at the time, Fukunaga and the Out of My Hand filmmakers are now determined to pay tribute to Murkami’s legacy by assuring his documentary sees release. The production is also giving back by pledging a percentage of all its profits to the Liberian Movie Union as a reflection of their appreciation and gratitude for their tremendous support.
Out of My Hand world premiered at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival, won the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, and was nominated for the John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award. Released in North America in the fall of 2015, it finally saw theatrical release in Japan in August, 2017. The movie is now available on Netflix and iTunes in some territories. Meanwhile, Fukunaga is currently working on his second feature within the Cannes Film Festival Cinéfondation residency program.