Residency Program

Exchange Residency Program (International creators from abroad)

update: 2024.3.26


Participating ProjectExchange Residency Program (Creators from abroad)
Activity BasedHelsinki, New York
City / Place stayedTokyo
Period2023.9 - 2023.11
Purpose of the residency

While Marko Vuorinen's work is profoundly personal and requires considerable time and effort for each project, his philosophy is that the combined impact of his body of work carries more weight than its individual parts. He looks forward to expanding his series of films by making a documentary portrait featuring a person living in Tokyo and sharing their life story. Tokyo, being one of the world's true metropolises with a rich history and vibrant contemporary offerings, provides the perfect setting for this project.

Plan during the residency
  • filming a feature-length documentary film that will focus on the life story of a young individual who identifies as nonbinary and presents as female
  • planning to engage in documentary photography projects during his stay, with a specific emphasis on themes revolving around social justice, gender, and sexuality
Activities during the online residency

During my stay in Tokyo, I started the production of a feature-length documentary movie. The film will be a new installment in my award-winning series, which focuses on the life stories of women and non-binary individuals living on the fringes of patriarchal societies across the globe. With the movie made in Tokyo, my goal was to explore how the strict and normative rules of Japanese society impact individuals who do not conform to the narrow definitions of what is traditionally considered 'normal,' especially in terms of sexual freedom and gender identity.

My work method remains consistent wherever I work, and this held true during my time in Tokyo. I arrived in the city with an open mind, aiming to minimize any preconceived notions. My goal was to make a documentary portrait that captures a timely and local perspective on gender equality and sexuality. Through a slow-paced lifestyle in the city and engaging with the city's underground subculture events, I gradually began to define the focus of my film. After establishing a clear theme, I proceeded with the casting process. The objective was to find an individual whose story could compellingly pivot the movie's theme, weaving a narrative of empathy, gender, and sexuality in Tokyo in 2023.

Film still from documentary feature Emi by Marko Vuorinen, 2023

Film still from documentary feature Emi by Marko Vuorinen, 2023

Outcome of the online residency

During my residency, I successfully captured most of the necessary footage for the feature-length documentary portrait. The film chronicles the life of Emi, a 34-year-old dominatrix and mistress, and a vocal advocate for feminist supremacy. Born in Japan, Emi spent her university years in the United States before returning to her home country in 2015. She has fully embraced her role in the world of fetishes and BDSM, finding deep fulfillment in her profession, which she considers her dream job. By day, she is employed in a business dealing with vintage items and jewelry. After office hours, she transforms into a figure of authority and control. In this role, she engages in sadistic acts upon client request, catering to a clientele that compensates her generously.

The film delves deeply into Emi's life within the love hotels of Tokyo’s Kabukicho. However, Emi's story transcends her professional realm; it's a compelling portrayal of the complex layers of human existence. The documentary presents her not only as a professional sadist and a strong supporter of feminist principles but also as a thoughtful partner in her personal life. The movie highlights the non-binary nature of human experiences, emphasizing that life is not simply black or white, but a spectrum of diverse and intersecting identities and roles.

Tokyo, as a city, possesses a distinctly normative spirit that can feel emotionally suppressive. Learning to navigate through this atmosphere was the most valuable lesson my residency taught me. The most memorable part of the residency was adopting a slow-paced lifestyle in the city, engaging with Tokyo's underground subculture, and gradually uncovering scenes hidden from plain sight. Getting to know the people within these spheres truly defined my experience.

Teaser for the documentary feature Emi by Marko Vuorinen, 2023
Original music: Bleeding Heart by Atsuko Hatano, 2023

Creator Information