” A portrait of multidisciplinary artist Tomoko Mukaiyama, the installation of 12,000 white dresses in a rural Japanese town, the biological cycles of life and death, and a mature and forgiving meditation on the great unanswerable questions.

It is a film from the heart, a film with a potentially fragile trajectory. It’s a film that takes risks(..). It’s a film that is not afraid of, nor does it pathologize, the burdens and sorrows of being human. It’s honest and moving in its grief and rises in the end to expressions of joy. It’s a film that seeks out gentle words and ceremonies to articulate the experience of all women, and indirectly, of their sons. And, as in many memorable documentaries, the relationship between the filmmaker and, in this case, her subject, develops into a mutual exchange, a complex and intimate sharing of the experience and the moment. ”


“This is a finely wrought auteurist documentary that combines several complex elements. It is a portrait of a Japanese pianist who is also an innovative visual artist. And it is a meditation of fecundity, childbirth and the experience of menstruation. We applaud the filmmakers’ audacity – her courageous approach to a subject that remains a taboo in many cultures. She explores it with an elegance and sophistication that deepens our understanding of the relationship between body and mind”

DOK LEIPZIG 2011/ Honorary Mention Int. competition

As a film about fertility, Water Children is an ode to womanhood and the body

Filmmaker Aliona van der Horst followed the trail of the unconventional Dutch-Japanese pianist and artist Tomoko Mukaiyama who made a huge work of art on the theme of womanhood and fertility. She created a cathedral-like space out of twelve thousand white silk dresses in which visitors, as in a ritual, roamed around and fell silent. And where people confessed intimate details about children who were or were not born, about sexuality and life-choices. This resulted in a majestic epic about motherhood, miscarriages and menopause. In a visual and poetic way, the film penetrates into what is probably still one of the greatest of taboos, menstruation, and, as a consequence, touches upon universal themes around life and death.

Some aspects of life are hard to express in words.To touch the deep layers of feelings connected to issues of motherhood and loss and experiences of procreation and the sense of failure it can entail, you need to create something like music, a labyrinth or a ritual. Something that isn’t only about speaking meaning, but explores other ways to express the deep and intense experiences in our lives. In this documentary, artist and pianist Tomoko Mukaiyama asks a group of Japanese women to participate in her art project exploring and meditating on the meaning of their monthly blood and the rhythm of their bodies. The women, sometimes for the first time in their lives, try to give words to their experiences, resulting in powerful testimonies about the connection between life and death, mortality and the power of life. Gradually, and unexpectedly, this film evolves into a collaboration between the artist and me. Why did I chose to make a film about such a sensitive and hard to grasp subject as “female fertility”? I am challenged by the Tomoko who asks me to participate in her project; confronting my own strong and mixed feelings towards being a woman without children of my own. Our conversation takes place in music and images. This film is about how deeply art can be connected to life and how necessary it it is to express what we often cannot speak about.

74 minutes, camera/editing with Maasja Ooms, sound Leo Erken, Rik Meijer, music Tomoko Mukaiyama, produced by Zeppers Film+TV, broadcasted by VPRO television 2011. Cinema release in the Netherlands 2011. 

Special Mention Golden Dove Dok Leipzig 2011, DOXA Vancouver Feature Documentary award 2012, Opening EDOC festival, opening Cairo Women Documentary festival