Yoshino Kimura has done workshops for the theater before but never for a film, and certainly nothing like she was required to do to prepare for her role as a blind person in "Blindness."
Based on the 1995 book by Portuguese author Jose Saramago and directed by Brazilian Fernando Meirelles, "Blindness" is an allegorical film set in an unnamed city about the breakdown of society after an epidemic of blindness hits the population. The international cast includes Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, as well as Kimura and Yusuke Iseya (whose character is the first one to be hit with the affliction). As more people suffer blindness (none of the characters have names), they are quarantined in a makeshift prison where all pretense of civility and humanity break down. Moore plays the only sighted person who decides to stay with her husband in the facility.
“When I read the book, I was shocked,” says Kimura, 32, during an interview at Tokyo Midtown. “I could never imagine blind people stealing, raping and killing each other.” Her big challenge was learning to act as a blind person. Meirelles didn’t want his cast walking like zombies with arms out in front, so he sent them to a two-week “blind workshop” in Ontario. Kimura and the others had to wear blindfolds for 4-5 hours each day and did various exercises such as chasing each other or simply eating.
“Before I went to Canada, I visited a training center in Tokyo for persons with sight disabilities due to disease or accidents. I talked to a lot of people there. However, the workshop in Canada was an exceptional experience. When I was first blindfolded, I couldn’t move much out of fear. Then when I did start wandering around, I was bumping into things all the time. The fear grows within you. It really made me think: What if I lost my eyesight? What would I do? Would I just lie down and die or try to live?”
Fluent in English, Kimura was born in Britain and returned to Japan when she was three. She later lived in New York for two years in the early 1990s. She began her acting career in 1996 in the NHK drama "Genki wo ageru" (I'll cheer you up), and made her movie debut the next year in "Shitsurakuen" (Paradise lost). Kimura has since gone back and forth between stage and screen (and released three albums as a singer, as well). "Blindness" is her second English movie after last year’s "Sukiyaki Western Django." “I’d like to make more movies in English, but I need to be in LA so I can audition for parts,” she says.
Wearing a simple navy blue dress, Kimura has a vivacious air to her. Since "Blindness" opened the Cannes film festival in May and was shown at last month’s Tokyo International Film Festival, she has been in demand for interviews, but has lost none of her enthusiasm. Working on an international production like "Blindness" was very exciting, she says. “We filmed in Canada, Montevideo (Uruguay) and Sao Paulo. I’d never been to South America before. The cast and crew became good friends. Fernando is like a philosopher, very intelligent, always calm, and never gets angry. He let us improvise. He always asked me for input. And Julianne Moore is fantastic, not just a good actress, but as a woman, very bright, strong and kind. I learned a lot from her.”
Kimura has become a well known face of Japan, not just because of her movies but because of her work as a tourism ambassador for Japan that has taken her to many countries, among them Australia, India, South Korea and Brazil. “When I went to Brazil, everybody asked me about Kurosawa,” she says. “I think movies, cosplay and anime are a good way to publicize Japan and draw more tourists.”© Japan Today