entertainment

Scorsese plans film on early Japanese Christians

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Oscar-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese plans to adapt for the screen a novel on Japan's brutal persecution of Christians during the 17th century, according to a museum.

The 1966 novel "Chinmoku" (Silence) by Shusaku Endo tells the story of a young idealistic Jesuit priest from Portugal who lands on the shores of Nagasaki in southern Japan -- then the only region open to foreigners.

The novel depicts the severe persecution Japan then inflicted on converts to Christianity, many of whom were impoverished villagers and went into hiding.

Academy Award-winning art director Dante Ferretti, who is close to Scorsese, and producer E Bennett Walsh this week visited the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture to research the film.

"They are going to make a movie and so they visited to research Japanese Christian history," museum spokesman Koichiro Nishijima said.

He said that the pair carefully studied a "fumie," a metal plaque depicting Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary that authorities would make people step on in order to weed out Christians.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said actors who may star in the movie include Daniel Day-Lewis, Gael Garcia Bernal and Benicio Del Toro -- who recently depicted Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh's "Che."

Scorsese plans to start shooting the film in New Zealand later this year and expects it to reach cinemas in 2010, the Asahi reported.

It would be the first major work directed by a foreigner about the subject, a less well-known part of Japan's history.

As many as 30,000 Japanese are believed to have been persecuted for their Christian faith, which was introduced by Spanish Jesuit Francis Xavier in 1549 but banned for centuries.

The Roman Catholic Church last year beatified 188 Japanese martyrs, mostly laypeople who were tortured to death.

Christians came out of hiding when Japan ended its policy of self-imposed seclusion in the 1860s.

Christians now make up a small part of the population in the largely Buddhist and Shinto nation and include prominent figures such as Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Scorsese is known for Hollywood blockbusters including "The Departed" and "Gangs of New York," as well as iconic films "Taxi Driver," "Goodfellas" and "Raging Bull."

© Wire reports

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

15 Comments
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This is one of the best books I've read, and I couldn't have hoped for a better director and cast to handle it.

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Ken Watanabe is already standing by his phone, ready to receive the call.

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New Zealand? Something wrong with filming something based in Japan in, oh, I dunno...Japan?

Still, if this is the ONLY way to get this done, then what the heck.

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Too expensive to make films in Japan, NZ is much cheaper

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cracking news

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It's a shame it is going to be shot in New Zealand rather than Yamaguchi.

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Scorsese had better be careful not to bash the Japanese if he wants to sell the film here. He'd better twist history a bit. Like in the end the idealistic Jesuit priest learns the honor of the samurai way, the subtlety of the Japanese spirit, the beauty of feudalism. How misunderstood the Japanese are.

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Sorry I should have said Nagasaki. The novel is set in Nagasaki. I am sure that there would be loads of cheap locations and extras at any number of places in Japan.

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It's a great novel and Endo is a great novelist. I don't think it bashes the Japanese, since most of the martyrs were Japanese. It blasts the government. It should be a great film, I hope. An Endo novel that probably couldn't be made into a Japanese film, is The Sea and Poison, which is about Japanese medical experiments committed on American POWs.

The early Japanese Christians were largely desperately poor peasants. They would have clung to anything that would have offered them hope. In this case, it happened to be Christianity. The Japanese government was right to crush this mental infection, even if they did so in a barbarically cruel way. It was a form of invasion meant to conquer Japan. It would have been followed by soldiers and merchants who would have taken more and more and more, just like they did in China. Japan would have become another debased nation sucking down opium with a cannon to its head. In fact, that is eventually how Japan was opened up - with American warships cruising into Tokyo Bay, demanding the Japanese start buying American goods.

Anyway, it should be a rather poignant film. I'm surprised Mel Gibson didn't take a crack at it before now. In America, all of the Jesus Freaks are going to flock to it like they did with The Passion of the Christ. Big money.

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Don't forget that Japan's rulers embraced Christianity before later deciding to crush it. I guess you could say they voted for it before they voted against it.

Silence is an excellent book. Great stuff.

As for not filming in Japan? I figure there are four reasons, in no particular order: 1) cost; 2) bureaucracy; 3) lack of competent English language support; and 4) lack of mountain vistas unmarred by power lines.

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The article implies that after 1860 everything was fine for the christians in Japan, but many were tortured and killed in the late 19th century after they came out of hiding....

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I am so glad this book will be turned in a film by such a master film maker. Silence is a horrifying decription of the tortures the Christians had to endure in the name of God who never answered their prayers and kept silent. This is one of the most atheistic books I have read, written by a true Catholic whom the other Catholics despise for accusing God in the crime of silence.

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BTW the book describes the Japanese as the best Christians in the world, people who embraced Christianity with dedication and persuasion as no other nation before them. They were the pride of the Jesuit missionaries who without much effort turned for a short time 25% of the population of Japan into Christians. The shogun banned Christianity just beauce the Dutch fighting for control of Japan with the Spanish persuaded the Shogun that the aims of Spain was to invade Japan through religion. So the persecution of the Chrstians is the result of the expansive and greedy politics of the European powers. The Shogun had no choice.

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My favourite director and my favourite actor - Benicio Del Toro. oh oh oh, this promises to be a great movie based on a great book written by a genious author. Benicio, Benicio, Benicio...

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The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said actors who may star in the movie include Daniel Day-Lewis, Gael Garcia Bernal and Benicio Del Toro—who recently depicted Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh’s “Che.”

It is worth noting that Gael Garcia Bernal has also depicted Guevara -- in the excellent film "The Motorcycle Diaries."

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