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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Elizabeth in Beverly Hills

Writer/Director Aaron Woolfolk is not afraid to take his time. His first feature film, The Harimaya Bridge, spans two hours across two continents. Transporting the audience from San Francisco to the rural prefecture of Kochi, Japan, his compelling narrative—inspired in part by the quiet, pastoral Japanese films that aren't afraid to take their time to tell their stories—develops quietly yet powerfully, with emotive force.

When Daniel Holder's (Ben Guillory) estranged son Mickey (Victor Grant), an artist and English teacher in Kochi, is killed in an automobile accident, Daniel's grief is heightened by his own resentment and prejudice towards the Japanese; his father was killed fighting the Japanese during World War II. Determined to retrieve Mickey's final paintings from Japan, Daniel embarks on a journey filled with angst and hatred.

With the unsolicited guidance of Yuiko Hara (Misa Shimizu), a co-worker of Mickey's from the Kochi board of education office, Daniel soon discovers legacies left behind by his son, forcing him to confront his own feelings and preconceived notions about others. This compelling story successfully interweaves both American and Japanese cultural viewpoints, pitting love and hate; prejudice and humanism; commonality and difference. Daniel's emotional voyage carries the audience through these universal themes, leaving an impression that ultimately, in spite of our ethnocentricities and uniqueness, the veil is thin between our cultural and racial distinctions.

Aaron effectively meshed two very different worlds. When I finished watching this beautiful film, my first impression was that I couldn't distinguish if this movie had been made by an American or Japanese filmmaker. Aaron is a fellow former Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme participant, and drew on his unique experiences as an English teacher in Kochi Prefecture, where he was immersed in the rural traditions of Japan. After returning to the U.S., he attended graduate film school and conceived of the storyline for this powerful and wholesome movie.
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His film's characters transcended the archetypal role of African-Americans, and in addition, Aaron is the first African-American filmmaker to make a feature film in Japan. The movie stars an African-American cast, including Danny Glover (as Joseph Holder, Daniel's brother) as well as several A-list Japanese actors. According to Aaron, making a cross-cultural story that in the end spoke to everybody regardless of "race" or "color" was very important to him.

Aaron has been declared an American with a Japanese soul. His film, emitting the universal theme of love, conveys that in spite of where we come from, despite our dissimilarities and cultural stubbornness ...we are all one.

The Harimaya Bridge is currently in limited release in select cities around the country. I drove to Beverly Hills on Saturday to attend a screening at Laemmle's Music Hall, where Aaron was in attendance for a question-and-answer period following the film. Time well spent.

You can catch a screening there through Thursday, April 8. This theatre is located just a few blocks from posh Rodeo Drive.

Update: You can catch a special screening on Friday, April 23, in San Francisco at the UA Stonestown Twin Theater. Showtime is 7:00pm and Aaron will be present. Beginning April 23, this film also begins screening in Irvine and Honolulu. Click here for showtimes.

Window shopping at exclusive stores like Versace and Gucci was good enough for me in this current economy.

The Regent Beverly Wilshire in the background; think Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.

Congratulations to Aaron Sensei. I look forward to his next project.

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