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Bridge over troubled waters

39 Comments
By Chris Betros

World War II finished 64 years ago but bad feelings still live on among some Japanese and Americans. "The Harimaya Bridge," directed and written by Aaron Woolfolk, executive produced by Danny Glover, and starring Ben Guillory, Saki Takaoka, Misa Shimizu and Glover, examines the prejudice between an African-American man and Japanese lingering since the war.

The story, set mostly in Kochi Prefecture, follows Daniel Holder (Guillory) who visits Japan to retrieve a collection of paintings produced by his late estranged son Mickey (the son has died in a traffic accident in Kochi). Holder, whose own father died at the hands of the Japanese during World War II, is in no mood to forget or forgive “the enemy,” nor is he moved by their politeness (it doesn't help when he is offered "natto" for his first meal in Japan). Things get complicated when Holder finds out his son was married to a local woman (Takaoka) who gave birth to a daughter after his death.

“It’s a powerful film with a message that is still important today,” says Takaoka, 36, herself a mother of two young boys. “Fortunately, I have never experienced that sort of discrimination. When I first read the script, as a mother, I could understand my character’s predicament. Yet, her love for her haafu child transcends the prejudice.”

Takaoka said she got on well with first-time director Woolfolk who spent a year in Kochi on the JET program, and who went on to direct short features about an African-American teacher in Kochi ("Eki" and "Kuroi Hitsuji") as part of his thesis for a master’s degree in film at New York’s Columbia University. “There was a gap between the type of Japanese woman that I play and Aaron’s idea of a Japanese woman, so we had a lot of discussion about it. I like a give-and-take relationship with directors. It was an interesting experience on set. On the production side, Aaron was the only foreigner, while Ben was the only foreign actor. There were Japanese crew who did not understand English at all. Despite the language barrier, we could all look at our work through multiple perspectives.”

Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Takaoka started her career as an actress in earnest in the film "cf Girl" in 1989, and followed that up with many movies, TV dramas and theater productions. She won the 1995 Rookie of the Year Award at the Japan Academy Prizes for "Crest of Betrayal," directed by Kinji Fukasaku.

Learning English dialogue was a challenge for Takaoka on the set of "The Harimaya Bridge." “I had a script with English in one side and Japanese translation in the other side. But I decided to think my role in English because English dialogue did not come out when I thought about it in Japanese.” She also had to relearn Kochi dialect. “I have had to use that dialect before in a movie, so it wasn’t a big problem. Kansai dialect is harder to master.”

Last summer, after filming finished in Kochi, Glover and Takaoka gave a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo. “Danny Glover is a very delightful and kind man,” said Takaoka. “I only spent about 2-3 days with him. At that press conference, he spoke so passionately about this project. I didn‘t understand everything he was saying but I could see it was very close to his heart.”

Takaoka says he would like to make a movie in Hollywood one day, but admits she needs to get better at English. “My two sons go to an international school and sometimes I try to speak English with them at home. They are getting very good. They laugh at jokes in movies and I don’t get it.” "The Harimaya Bridge" opens on June 13.

© Japan Today

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39 Comments
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American man marries a Japanese woman - it is the top of originality. Eating natto too.

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WELL i really study international relations between Japan & USA however this doesn't sound like a good movie.

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American man marries a Japanese woman - it is the top of originality. Eating natto too.

And your comment(s) are always original, eh? I don't think so.

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I have an idea. Why don't we see the movie before we decide to poop all over it.

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I think it sounds good. I'd go watch this movie if movie tickets in Japan didn't cost the same as a regular DVD on Amazon. I suppose I'll wait for the DVD.

Since WW2 is much of a hushed topic in Japan (only one or two people I know are willing to talk about it when the topic arises) I find myself very curious about how Japanese people react to this legacy and more importantly, how do they feel about it. How are WW2, xenophobia and cultural attitudes towards hafu kids and their parents related for one family, it's quite interesting. That coupled with the hafu topic itself (which some prefer to believe is a non-issue) makes the movie look interesting to me. I would like to see a similar movie made by a Japanese director and compare both.

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Watch some documentaries on what the Japanese did to WWII prisoners and you will get some veterans' perspective on the whole matter. Its easy for us because we have never seen friends or family tortured (unless perhaps you have fought in the ME). I think movies that focus on the whole Japanese involvement in WWII are good and there are probably not enough of them. When you see how Hollywood keeps on going on about the Germans in WWII then you have to say the Japanese involvement is largely uncovered territory. Without seeing the movie it seems worthwhile to see.

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I agree with Azrael and dishdash. WWII movies about Japan are all too rare compared to the ones about Germans. But feelings of animosity towards the Japanese still live on and can only be helped by movies like this and others. And what a beauty Takaoka san is, no?!

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I also agree with Azrael and dishdash too. Documentation of past transgressions of enemy nations is far more important and demanding than disclosing one's own nation's war time transgressions in the present.

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Holder, whose own father died at the hands of the Japanese during World War II, is in no mood to forget or forgive “the enemy,”

FACT: Bombs don't discriminate between White soldiers armed with Thompson SMGs and Black cooks armed with a laddle.

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Takaoka looks hot, I'd tap her keg regardless of what her uncles might have done..

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I used tolivein Kochi. I remember Harimayabashi winning some kind of award for "Most Disappointing Tourist Attraction".

It's a pretend bridge about 2 metres across at the side of the busiest crossroads in town.

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I used tolivein Kochi. I remember Harimayabashi winning some kind of award for "Most Disappointing Tourist Attraction". It's a pretend bridge about 2 metres across at the side of the busiest crossroads in town.

I am not sure what a 'pretend bridge' is. But it is a fact water now no longer flows under this bridge. Disappointment is caused by excessive expectations. If the tourists would do a little research on what they are going to see beforehand they might feel different. If they are just looking for sensation they won't find it here. More information on this bridge can be found here: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/attractions/entertainment/rtp/east_chugoku_shikoku/day1.html BTW, I'd like to see this movie. I'm not a Glover fan, but Takaoka has my attention :-)

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And your comment(s) are always original, eh? I don't think so.

yes compared to the articles

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There were Japanese crew who did not understand English at all.

they should be ashamed.

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I am not sure what a 'pretend bridge' is. But it is a fact water now no longer flows under this bridge.

I think you've pretty much nailed the definition. It goes across a piece of pavement less than 50 cm below it.

If memory serves, there is a clock on the side of a building just over the road, and little marionnettes come out to chime the hour. I was once nearly knocked over by a venerable elderly lady, who had forgotten she was frail for long enough to RUN down the street and around the corner of Harimaya to watch this awesome sight, this triumph of entertainment.

One would have thought, from the fevered determination of her countenance, that the show was Elvis, backed by Jimi Hendrix and a re-formed Beatles for a once-only performance.

But it was a clock going "Ding".

They drink a lot in Kochi.

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By the by, presto, I just checked out your link for more information on the great attraction of Harimayabashi.

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/attractions/entertainment/rtp/eastchugokushikoku/day1.html

It seems it is still under construction.

Disappointment is caused by excessive expectations. If the tourists would do a little research on what they are going to see beforehand they might feel different.

Why is it an excessive expectation to hope to see something worth seeing at the only tourist attraction in town? If tourists had a little foreknowledge, they simply wouldn't go.

At the very least, this new film will bring a new generation of gullible film fans to Kochi, which will be good for the local economy, so it can't be bad in the short term. It really is a beautiful place, but not a place to base its financial needs on tourists.

Is Jungri-La still there?

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World War II finished 64 years ago but bad feelings still live on among >some Japanese and Americans."

True. The key word is "some". And most of them are over 80 years old on both sides of the ocean. Yet there are veterans from both sides that have buried the hatchet and decided to go on as well.

Watch some documentaries on what the Japanese did to WWII prisoners and >you will get some veterans' perspective on the whole matter.

Some, not all Japanese. Just like some, not all, Marines collected Japanes skulls and gold fillings, or practiced a no-prisoner policy. My late uncle was in the USMC and served on Guadalcanal.

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"Takaoka said she got on well with first-time director Woolfolk who spent A YEAR in Kochi on the JET program "

"There was a gap between the type of Japanese woman that I play and Aaron’s idea of a Japanese woman",

... that made me smile. But she seems to have quite fostering / mothering attitude to work with him and educate and visa versa i guess. Bit Intrigued more about these people and even to find out if indeed the movie is any good.

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Bit Intrigued more about these people and even to find out if indeed the movie is any good.

no, it is not good.

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Disdash: I like your comment. I don't want to be a finger pointer, but has Hollywood been "racist" in focusing on beating the Germans in WW11 and not Japan? Both Germany and Japan committed unspeakable attrocities but Hollywood only only concentrates on the white Germans. Who controls Hollywood and why would they do this. Is it "anti-germanic" racism. Should the US pass a law making it mandatory that they portray both countries defeats and attrocities equally. Perhaps they may feel that because Japan got the two atom bombs that they got an advantage so they seek the new "equailty of outcome". I think it has something to do with getting even, and an eye for an eye, over the holocaust. Lets call a spade a spade: Some say you won't win an Oscar in Hollywood doing a movie without a Jewish slant. Not enough Jews in Japan in WW11 or even today. Is Japan Racist in this respect? The hatchet between Americans and the Japanese was buried at the end of the War thank goodness. America made one modest claim for compensation for those prisoners of war that suffered in 1954. America got on helping rebuild both countries immediately the war finished and what success they had. The fact is the major war was fought in Europe where 50 million died and that is why Hollywood might focus on it. I look forward to seeing this film

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Maybe there are fewer movies about the Japanese side is because it is difficult to put together a lot of Japanese or Asians to play the roles. Clint Eastwood managed to do this with "Letters from Iwojima", so it is no impossible.

Moderator: All readers back on topic please.

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Brunobear. Let's look at the reality of WWII. England and the US set Asia as a secondary priority. They knew Japan lacked the industrial power to compete with US production and simply didn't see Japan as the same level threat as Germany. Add to that the Holocaust and the fact that so much of the major fighting took place in Europe and you have the reason Japan is not the prime target for movies.

As a story teller, how many internment camp, naval battle and jungle battle stories can you tell? Liberation of major famous cities and colorful characters made the European story more sellable as drama.

I think this is finally changing as people are willing to hear about Japan's wartime experiences and as we start to address the reality of the war in place like China and the Philippines.

At least Eastwood's film gave a very balanced look at the Japanese war experience.

Moderator: Back on topic please.

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Having been born in the early 60's, I didn't really think there was still a lot of animosity towards the Japanese because of WWII. I was very emabarrased during my stint in the Navy when - in downtown Waikiki HI - one of my shipmates answered a polite question from a Japanese family of 4 with, "It's right where you f-ing left it!" The question was, "Where U.S.S. Arizona Memorial?" We hustled my shipmate away before things got worse, but that's when I realized even people born after the fact can harbor resentment.

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Those eyes, that hair, that skin....Saki is wonderful.

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My mom doesn't like Japanese people. She doesn't like Germans or Russians, either. She also has never known anyone who's Asian, German or Russian but she still doesn't like any of them. I blame this on propaganda, which she buys into wholeheartedly and defends with a, "Why would your own country lie to you?" I don't have the same prejudices, but I'm also alert to the stuff my own country tries to feed me and I was born quite a bit after war time. I'd like to see this movie, but I don't think my mother will. I don't think the rest of my family would be interested in seeing this movie, either. They only watch assembly line hollywood no-brainers.

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Saki is/was a nude model. Just did a Google image search...and wow!

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LoveUSA

Bit Intrigued more about these people and even to find out if indeed the movie is any good.

no, it is not good.

Did you get into a special pre-release screening or time-travel?

Something tells me neither.

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http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/attractions/entertainment/rtp/eastchugokushikoku/day1.html

It seems it is still under construction.

Here's a photo of/some info on the bridge: http://www.kochi-kia.or.jp/english/kochitourist.html

According this same page, there are three tourist attractions in Kochi City, not one :-)

Unless you count the fourth that's apparently 13km out . . .

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i like Danny glover, so i am curious about this film

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I'd watch this just to see Saki and Misa - both fantastic actresses and stunning too!

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PLus it's true about old animositiesd dying hard. I hate the Americans for what they did to Japan (and Korea and Vietnam). hope this movie gives vent to some of those feelings.

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I am gladly heartened to know that Koreans and Japanese aren't the only couples who have experienced friction..Japanese and Chinese don't get along well with each other and Japan and Russia also have an islet dispute over four Kuril islands occupied by former Soviet Union..

I think the best way to ameliorate often difficult Korea-Japan ties is to increase exchanges of young people from both countries and share opinions and ideas on how to genuinely break the deadlock and open their hearts & minds to each other..Koreans both Government and people always say Japan hasn't apologized enough for its past misdeeds in Korea while Japan says it has said sorry to Korea more than enough..At the behest of U.S.Government in 1965, Korea & Japan set up full diplomatic ties and Japan offers some money as a compensation for damage it caused on Korea..U.S. $ 300 million reparation cost from Japan to Korea is a drop in a bucket relatively speaking but Korean Government used that money to build steel factories and highway from Seoul to Pusan, the Korean port city closest to Fukuoka,Japan..

That money didn't go to Korean victims of Japan's colonization of Korea so those victims are filing lawsuit against POSCO, the South Korean steelmaker who used reparation money to build factories.. I love Korea and I like Korean patriotism but I wish Koreans stop hating Japan right now..Because I realized the better relations between Seoul & Tokyo, the more Japanese are willing to open up to Koreans..Some positive progress has already been made in Korea-Japan ties so I think good momentum is already showing up in Korea & Japan..Also a Japanese girl in U.S.A. told me that Japan's ancestor originated from Korean Peninsula..Korean themselves are a mixture of Manchurians,Mongols,some Han Chinese and even Japanese races..A lot of Western people know China and Japan well but they don't know Korea well unless CNN shows North Korea fires missiles into East Sea or tests underground nuclear explosions..

North Korea is tempting Japan to go nuclear so for time being U.S.A. troops must remain in Korea & Okinawa,Japan to stop escalation of potential military build-up competition among China,Korea and Japan and even Russian Far East..We don't need another war to solve regional security dilemmas in Korean Peninsula & North East Asia and prevent mishaps because I think Asia is heading in a wrong direction in the absence of genuine trust between 2 Koreas or among Sino-Korea-Japan triangular relations..We don't have much time to waste anymore discussing Japan's armed invasion of Asia nor can we afford to do so..What we must do is to increase people-to-people exchanges among the neighbouring countries concerned and share ideas on how to build a peaceful community in East Asia..Let's pray for peace in this region and calm down a little bit...I wish my comment will elevate Korea-Japan relations to a new horizon!!!!!

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Too much time on my hands and just looked up the bridge on Google Earth, looks pretty lame, so does Kochi. The locals seem pretty excited about the movie being set in their town though.

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JeffLee, oh my goodness, yes I saw the nude shots. What a magnificant body. I just love an all natural woman.

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Based on this superficial description, the plot sounds horribly contrived. Movies like this might have been useful maybe 40 years ago, when it was considered "progressive" to change people's hearts and minds. But people who are old enough to remember the war probably make up less than 1% of all moviegoers now. Most of the people who see it will be under 35, and aren't especially likely to benefit from its message. I remember one of Kurosawa's last films, with Richard Gere, took on a vaguely similar theme. We can all certainly benefit from morality plays, but the events of WW2 are fading fast in our collective memories.

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JeffLee at 07:21 AM JST - 2nd June Saki is/was a nude model. Just did a Google image search...and wow!

She looks better in underwear though as she has nice legs. I will watch the movie,

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I would be interested to see this film it sounds like it could be good. As for the hatred of the "enemy" I have to say I've never seen it. My wife's grandparents on both sides are survivors of the bombing of Nagasaki and I was welcomed into the family from day one. Most people who can't let the war go seem to be armchair historians rather than people who were actually affected by it.

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Bridge over troubled waters

Or is the whole point of this movie simply an attempt to stir up the waters to make some money six and half decades after World War II?

It's time to move on and away from issues related to the war.

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When are you going to get over with the WWII topic? Forgive and forget. no need to make money from war related themes. Grand Torino - good message, sense of humor, specific cultural issues depicted with taste and humor..

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