Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Harimaya Bridge (JAPANESE)

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Grieving Father’s Bitterness Softened by Posthumous Visit to Japan

Daniel Holder’s (Ben Guillory) dad perished during World War II while serving in the U.S. military on the Pacific Front. This makes it easy to understand why he might have had misgivings about his own son Mickey’s (Victor Grant) taking a job teaching English in Kochi Prefecture, a rural section of Japan. Between Mickey’s hurtful decision to relocate to the Land of the Rising Sun and the physical distance from the father he left behind in San Francisco that necessitated, this sorry state of eventually led to their estrangement.
Meanwhile, Mickey moved on with his life, falling in love with a local girl (Saki Takaoka), with whom he even had a child. But when he dies unexpectedly in a motorbike accident, Daniel suddenly must deal with another death of a loved one in the Orient.
The disconsolate dad arrives in Japan, angry and embittered, but starts to soften upon learning that his sole offspring left behind both a beautiful collection of artwork and the only grandson he’ll ever have. Daniel’s gradually softening and coming to grips with his grief rests at the heart of The Harimaya Bridge, a bittersweet, cross-cultural drama written and directed by Aaron Woolfolk.
The semi-autobiographical opus marks Woolfolk’s first foray into feature
films, and draws heavily on his experiences as an African-American transplant from the Bay Area teaching English in the Kochi region of Japan. Besides the elder Holder’s mourning, the movie focuses on the challenges surrounding the outsider status accorded any “gaijin,” aka foreigner. Furthermore, there is the question of whether his half-black/half-Japanese grandchild ought to be raised in San Francisco, especially given the chance that the baby might be branded “burakumin” and thus banished to live in a community set aside for ethnically-mixed social outcasts.
Accolades are in order to Woolfolk for his admirable, engaging effort and for his historic venture being the first Japanese industry production piloted by an African-American. A poignant parable suggesting that true love knows no boundaries, perhaps not even death.

Very Good (3 stars)
In English and Japanese with both English and Japanese subtitles.
Running time: 120 Minutes
Distributor: Eleven Arts

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