Japan seen through African-American eye
By Kevin Thomas
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
For his powerful "The Harimaya Bridge," writer-director Aaron Woolfolk was inspired by such classic Japanese films as "Ikiru" and "Tokyo Story" to take his time in telling his tale. And, indeed, Woolfolk needs a full two hours for his hero to work through understandable bitterness to his first steps toward acceptance and reconciliation.
Ben Guillory's Daniel Holder is a wealthy San Francisco widower determined to go to Japan to retrieve paintings left behind by his son, who was teaching English in a Japanese middle school when he was killed in a traffic accident.
Daniel had worked so hard to make a better life for his son Mickey (Victor Grant) that he had little time for him.
Having lost his own father to a hideous death as a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II, Daniel vehemently opposed Mickey going to Japan.
Wracked with guilt and anger, plus his hatred toward the Japanese, the African-American Daniel arrives in Kochi Prefecture demanding that Noriko (Saki Takaoka), a board of education official, round up for him all of Mickey's paintings, even those his son gave to friends as gifts.
Not surprisingly, Daniel's mission proves complicated and involves some surprises.
Although exasperated and put upon by Daniel, Noriko is a compassionate woman and is willing to stick by him in his gradual, painful journey of self-discovery.
"The Harimaya Bridge"has accomplished portrayals by Guillory, Takaoka and others, and both a remarkably authentic Japanese feel to it and an African American perspective.
It is a unique, complex, consciousness-raising accomplishment.