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Shaky ‘Bridge’ between two cultures

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There has never been a Japanese film as local as “Harimaya Bridge.” Local, that is, to the Bay Area.

Part of the story takes place in San Francisco; the director is from Oakland, a graduate of UC Berkeley; Danny Glover is the executive producer, and he also appears in the film just long enough to be listed in the cast.

The movie includes a scene with Vallejo Symphony Music Director David Ramadanoff conducting the Berkeley Young People’s Symphony Orchestra.

The film is by Aaron Woolfolk, the first African-American director-writer of a Japanese film. He had worked in rural Japan (Kochi Prefecture) as an English teacher; that’s the setting for the story.

The movie stars Ben Guillory as Daniel Holder, a man who is bitterly anti-Japanese because of the brutal death of his father in World War II. Holder’s son, Mickey (Victor Grant), is an artist, who — defying his father — teaches and works in Japan. When he dies in a motorcycle accident, the father travels to Japan to reclaim his paintings, seething with new anger about the country.

In two languages (one always subtitled), the story unfolds slowly and often predictably about the conflicts between the rude and hostile Holder and the people of Kochi, including the son’s Japanese wife, who are trying their best to accommodate the father of a man they had come to respect and like.

Given a difficult and too-broadly written role, Guillory’s performance is uneven, but the Japanese cast excels. At the end, conflicts are resolved too readily, and sentimentality washes over the scene, topped off with a Broadway-musical style festival dance.

The bridge of the title appears only toward the end of the film, and its story serves as a narration of tenuous relevance.

Harimaya Bridge

Two stars

Starring Ben Guillory, Saki Takaoka, Misa Shimizu, Danny Glover
Written and directed by Aaron Woolfolk
Rated PG-13
Running time 2 hours

Note: The film screens at UA Stonestown Twin 2, 501 Buckingham Way, San Francisco.

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