Director, scriptwriter. For two decades one of Canada’s most internationally recognized, prolific and versatile lesbian film- and video makers, Onodera was trained at OCAD where she established her roots in the Toronto arts community.
Onodera’s first major film, Ten Cents a Dance (Parallax) (1985, 30) immediately established her international reputation. This experimental narrative triptych about sex, games and money was also one of the most controversial works of the decade, eliciting strong reactions wherever it was shown. Three semi-satiric vignettes glimpse lesbian, gay male and hetero sexual exchange, from cool to hot. Twenty years later we’re still debating what it’s all about and what Onodera’s distinctive overlapping two frames might have to do with that, and that’s a sure sign of a masterpiece (see Chapter 8).
The next major film was entirely different,The Displaced View (1988, 52), a chaste but innovative documentary essay on Onodera’s Japanese-Canadian heritage, on her grandmother and the other women in successive generations of her family, and on the interface of history, memory, race, gender, and sexual identity. These themes recur in the subsequent series of short films and videos, along with her commitment to renewing experimental, autobiographical and narrative forms.Basement Girl (2001, 12), for example, is a multiple-formated, multiple-languaged narrative about a jilted young woman who holes up in her basement apartment with TV and junk food, and who eventually emerges to “make it on her own,” thanks to the inspiration of the Bionic Woman.
Onodera’s one initiative in the feature film sector led to the enigmatic Skin Deep (1995, 85), which had a mixed critical and commercial response. Skin Deep intrigued audiences with its narrative of an Asian-Canadian filmmaker trying to balance her art with her rocky personal life, and its themes of gender identity and transgression, tattooing, pain, and desire.
Most recently, Onodera experimented with digital, interactive and performance-based media, continuing to confound audiences and critics who want sexual and racial identity in neat, lucid and affirmative representational packages, and to delight those who want to be challenged.