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Glover examines prejudices in new film set in Japan

21 Comments
By Taro Fujimoto

Danny Glover, who is perhaps best known in Japan for the action film series “Lethal Weapon,” is taking on a new challenge: to examine the prejudice and discrimination between African-Americans and Japanese lingering since World War II, through his latest film “The Harimaya Bridge,” which is currently being filmed in Kochi Prefecture.

The film, of which Glover, 61, is executive producer, follows an African-American man (Ben Guillory) who visits Japan to retrieve a collection of paintings produced by his estranged son Mickey, who had been living in Kochi Prefecture until his untimely death. The film depicts the man’s prejudice against Japanese and discrimination by Japanese against foreigners in relation to World War II. Glover plays the role of Mickey’s uncle.

Portraying a personal story, Glover said he wants to express the emotional danger of Americans in a fragile position in a small local community in Japan. “The film has two elements: physical danger and emotional danger,” he said. “The emotional danger is what happens when we are allowed to look inside the characters. Doing something this extraordinary, we begin to re-examine ourselves and our relationships to each other in this fragile world.”

Born in San Francisco where diversified communities such as Japanese, Korean, Hispanic, African and other ethnicities live together, Glover thinks being an actor is something more than show business. “One of the wonderful privileges of being in cultural work as an actor is to get chances to interact with many different worlds. I found that because of that, it has allowed me to have a better sense of myself and responsibility I have as an artist in the world. This film is unfolding a new chapter in my life.”

As a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Program, Glover said he has a strong interest in stories related to war, whether it be World War II or current conflicts around the globe. “Millions of women and men go to war everyday,” he said. “The idea of ‘The Harimaya Bridge’ is to show how the interaction between Japanese and Americans in a small community in Kochi can serve as an example for communication between people in the global community.”

Filming a personal story of Americans in Japan, Glover indirectly challenges the status quo of filmmaking in Hollywood, which he disdains. “The whole system of filmmaking has been hijacked. Mostly men make decisions about what the world is gonna see. The question is quality. People want to see diversified films, so I’d like to change the existing paradigms in Hollywood.”

Glover said his mother, whom he called a “woman of magnitude,” had a great influence on his career. “One day, when I stepped into her place of work, she said, ‘Danny, Danny, come here. I want you to meet someone I work with.’ Then she said to her colleagues: ‘I want you to meet my son. He’s an actor. He hasn’t done anything yet, but he’s gonna do something important.’ Well, I guess, doing this wonderful film, ‘The Harimaya Bridge,’ is something important.”

“The Harimaya Bridge” is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2009.

© Japan Today

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21 Comments
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he old

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Good luck to Mr.Glover and his new film. We need more quality film with meaning and purpose.

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He is absolutely right about hollywood being hijacked. Year after year insane amounts of money are being spent producing the latest computer generated garbage. Granted, world audiences continue to keep patronizing this garbage so it continues, but really people want more quality, and by quality we mean deep and interesting storylines, quality acting. Not computer stuff.

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Plot

Goes to town Does what he needs Gets in trouble with japanese Gets a japanese women confronts japanese End ????? PROFIT
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Personally, I like him and his viewpoint.

I class him same as Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood(Ostwald in german). ;) IMO, they got what it takes to tell a story as it should be, none of the Spielberg mush.

Looking forward to it.

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These days there are two types of films made by American film makers about Japan. The first hits you over the head with a WWII reference, and the second puts 2 losers (aka "Lost in Translation") in Japan and hits you over the head with stereotypes about how Westerners are treated in Japan. Like to see a film about the later done properly - say for example about an English teacher living in Japan etc... I assume this Glover film tries to fall somewhere between the 2. Don't get me wrong. I'll probably see the Glover film and like it. But, I also expect to be disappointed.

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"He is absolutely right about hollywood being hijacked. Year after year insane amounts of money are being spent producing the latest computer generated garbage. Granted, world audiences continue to keep patronizing this garbage so it continues, but really people want more quality, and by quality we mean deep and interesting storylines, quality acting. Not computer stuff".

As you've demanded so many times before from other articles, for them to show proof, I'd like you to show proof about this claim. The average person does not want deep, meaningful stories at all, they just want something they can relax to to escape the real world for a while.

You need to spot your own contradiction: 1) "Granted, world audiences continue to keep patronizing this garbage so it continues", but then you go on to say ... 2) "...people want more quality, and by quality we mean deep and interesting storylines, quality acting. Not computer stuff".

Plus you need to stay on topic, I seriously doubt there is any "computer stuff" in this movie Glover has made.

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But what everyone in the press pool really wanted to know was, "Are there any plans to make a new Lethal Weapon movie?"

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Plot Goes to town Does what he needs Gets in trouble with japanese Gets a japanese women confronts japanese End ????? PROFIT

You just described every "stranger in a strange land" film ever made, Japanese or no.

These days there are two types of films made by American film makers about Japan. The first hits you over the head with a WWII reference, and the second puts 2 losers (aka "Lost in Translation") in Japan and hits you over the head with stereotypes about how Westerners are treated in Japan.

Ditto.

When there's a film about foreigners going to a new place, the film is going to center on culture clash. These types of films are archetypes. Japan's treatment isn't special.

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Plot Goes to town Does what he needs Gets in trouble with japanese Gets a japanese women confronts japanese End ????? PROFIT

You just described every "stranger in a strange land" film ever made, Japanese or no.

Kickboxer! Van Damme Vs. Thai kickboxing!

On a serious note I look forward to seeing this movie. And don't downplay the importance of Lethal Weapons 1, 2, and 4, Danny! This is just another important film you are doing!

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This looks to be a very interesting movie.

"he old"

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

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I don't understand why you all criticize him. I think this movie will be interesting.

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The problem is, despite this being filmed in Japan and more than likely containing Japanese actors, since it shows prejudice on the part of the Japanese, the Japan Film Board (association) will probably not release it on the big screen. This happened with Lost in Translation, though it was finally released two years after the fact since it won some Academy Awards.

Basically, if it shows Japan in a good like and has some 'big' stars, it gets release at the same time as in the USA, and top billing in newspapers, word of mouth, etc. (except for the 'So and So Watanabe was great, but there's no way a CHINESE can play the lead role as a traditional such and such!). If it pokes fun at Japanese pop-culture and/or brings underlying racism to the surface, etc. It straight to video after 2 or 3 years.

That, Danny, I'm sorry to say, is the man decided what JAPAN will see.

Nonetheless, I wish you the best of luck. If you DO want to see it grace the theatres, make sure you get Kim-Taku in it somewhere, perhaps even using a bit of garbled English.

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Way to go Danny glover/Japan-USA cross culture theme ,movie productions. Good for more jobs in movie industries.

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hello gravity, way to go Japan and USA cross cultured theme

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I want to see this too. Smithinjapan & your reference to Memoirs of a Geisha - it's funny how you poke fun at Japanese people being disappointed that the role of a Japanese woman in historical days was not played by a Japanese actress. a) I can't see how that's relevant to the current topic and b) if (for example) a Non-Maori person played a lead Maori role in a film, I'd be disappointed. Just because Hollywood doesn't care about the accuracy of films with a cultural/historical background, doesn't mean that this is the ideal way to create films or that viewers should have to put up with it.

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Smith I think you are probably correct which is sad. I will be looking forward to seeing this film as Danny Glover is a very good actor. The funniest thing about the whole "Lost in Translation" showing Japan in a bad light thing is that it was exacrtly what everyone's first business trip to Japan feels like. It's pretty sad that the film board can't deal with reality.

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stanoue: "a) I can't see how that's relevant to the current topic and b) if (for example) a Non-Maori person played a lead Maori role in a film, I'd be disappointed. Just because Hollywood doesn't care about the accuracy of films with a cultural/historical background, doesn't mean that this is the ideal way to create films or that viewers should have to put up with it."

It's VERY relevant to the current topic, my friend, as it deals ultimately with discrimination, and while discrimination in Japan isn't always on the surface, it's ALWAYS under it. What's more, you insinuate that my comment is off-topic, backing it up by saying that Hollywood doesn't care about accuracy, which I have a few points of my own I'd like to mention:

1) This isn't about Hollywood; Danny has gone above and beyond to say how much he's trying to make a different forum than Hollywood's. MY point was that, regardless of the forum, Japanese will discriminate based on how they see themselves being displayed in the film. If it's good, they boost up the release date; if it's not good they often don't release it at all, in theatres, anwyay.

Which brings me to my second point:

2) why should you give a s&%t about a non-Maori playing the role of a Maori if they can do it better than 99% of the people applying for the role? My favourite counter for people who said, "Why is a CHINESE playing a geisha??! That's JAPANESE CULTURE!", was to ask them how much they knew of geisha life themselves. The answer was in EVERY answer, next to none. In fact, I know more about the nature of a geisha than most Japanese, through study, as does any actor who wishes to take his/her role seriously. You don't have to be born in Japan with 'pure blood' to understand Japanese culture better than your average Joe just born here and who walks around taking it for granted. Likewise, any Canadian who pretends he/she ought to know Innuit life better than someone foreign who has spent his/her life studying it, simply because the former was born there, is just plain stupid.

3) If the Japanese want to play all Japanese character roles in a major industry (and the Japanese film industry is anything but), they have to find more calibre actors who can speak various languages. That goes for any culture, and no one is exempt.

So, you see, I was not only right on the money with my comments, but you were way off. If I want to make a film about China I am of course going to have to hire obscene numbers of CHinese staff both off and on camera, but will probably choose a few Hong Kong actors/actresses who have more world experience, and probably even Chinese American/Canadians who have some renowned calibre and experience in acting. After they're chosen, you bet your a$$ I'm going to have them dig into histories the locals don't know anything about but claim they 'have a right to' simply because they were born that nationality.

I can sadly and honestly say I know more about the history of current Japanese culture and trends than many Japanese, can explain it in a number of languages, and provide a far more valuable resource in the making of any movie on said culture; so should they choose some schmuck off the street just because he drinks a one-cup Ozaki and was born here? Not if you want a REAL movie, and a movie that can better depict the true history and circumstances than someone who was simply born here but knows nothing about it.

Has less to due with cultural insensitivity than it does practicality, and brains. I'd bet you millions that Zhang Zi-Yi knows more about Geisha than do almost all Japanese except those who drilled it into her. Likewise any Japanese who's lived and worked in Canada probably knows a lot more about the system there now than I do.... but should I object to that simply because I was born there?

Let's take this a step further and look at the opposite actions of the Japan Film Board. When Kim-Taku played a minor role in a Hong Kong movie that would have made it to Cannes if they weren't late submitting, you heard nothing about how great the mighty Kim-Taku was for starring in an international movie (until it was rejected... then you heard less... but it was still immediately released in some theatres). When Taiwanese born Kaneshiro Takeshi hit it big, all you heard about was how 'Japanese' he is and how wonderful (unless it's a strictly Taiwanese movie). They bray like cattle about how AWESOME Watanabe Ken was in the Last Samurai, but how there's no way in hell Tom Cruise could have known anything about Samurai life (the main reason why so many hated it); but I beg to differ... you teach him about it and he knows more than any Japanese who has never been taught about it.

You get my point?

Anyway, again, kudos to Danny.... I hope Stanoue isn't on the film board when they point out that Danny Glover cannot possibly depict the Japanese because he is not Japanese (unless Kim-Taku stars in it, then it will just be "Kim-Taku was great in the movie... stunning! but the whole film was unrealistic because it was made by a foreigner). In other words, Danny has one either way; either his film is promoted and points out the underlying racism that dominates Japan, or he is denied open access and promotion of the film, and his movie holds all the more true.

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OK Thanks for the epic response - I would agree, if an actor researches a role properly and does a better job than anyone else possibly could then yes, they are the right person for the part. Not if they are going to mispronounce words (ruins the fantasy entirely) or make cultural gaffes afterwards though (puts the natives offside). Can't bleat down most of your comments so guess they are warranted - apart from this one '

<strong>Moderator: Readers, please stay on topic.</strong>

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this movie isn't going to be much. glover isn't much in the u.s. neither is anyone else in the movie for that matter.

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question for glover - shouldn't he be examining prejudices in the U.S.? there seems to be a lot of it over there...

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