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Reviews - The Harimaya Bridge

The Harimaya Bridge

Reviewed By John Stakes

The Harimaya Bridge
The Harimaya Bridge
The final film of the Club’s spring season was a semi-autobiographical piece by first time US director and screenwriter Aaron Woolfolk based on his English teaching days in rural Japan.

However there was much more to “The Harimaya Bridge” than Woolfolk’s experiences, as his film centred on the fractured life of African-American Daniel Holder (Ben Guillony), a widower whose father had died during WW2 whilst serving in the US military on the Pacific front. So when his own son Mickey decides to take up residence in Japan to teach English, Daniel objects and consequently becomes estranged from his son.

Tragedy strikes when Mickey is killed in a road accident and his body is flown back to San Francisco for his funeral. A Japanese girl Noruko attends and is revealed as Mickey’s wife. She is also pregnant and it turns out Mickey was unaware of her pregnancy at his death. She later gives birth to a baby girl after returning to Japan.

Two years later Daniel decides to travel to Japan ostensibly to retrieve several paintings belonging to his son and initially carries his prejudices against the Japanese with him. However he comes to learn that Mickey and Noruko had to face the prejudice of Noruko’s parents and others against mixed marriages and his attitude gradually softens. He also learns that Mickey had donated his paintings to the local museum and other locals to whom he had also given his paintings had also donated their paintings to the museum as an epitaph to Mickey who was a well-liked member of the community.

There are echoes of Daniel’s past as he decides to leave the paintings where they now hang, and to use his wealth to provide a secure future for his daughter-in-law and granddaughter. The film ends with all members of the two families becoming reconciled.

There were countless opportunities to inject drama into these proceedings nearly all of which were ignored as Woolfolk settled for a simple rather sentimental telling of the events with little in the way of dialogue from Daniel and no variation of pace. The result was that the exercise was satisfyingly worthy if somewhat anodyne. The little wooden bridge in the town centre which the couple had crossed was the stuff of folk-lore and served as an obvious metaphor for national and racial reconciliation. And rural Japan was lovingly photographed.

The film had premiered at the Film Festival in February but ran into technical difficulties after the first half hour so the Club decided to screen it again this time free of charge to anyone who wished to see it.

This season has been at times challenging, profound, moving, harrowing, life- affirming, incomprehensible, and amusing. But never dull and invariably thought-provoking. Much of the cinematography has been breathtaking.

At the end of the film a collection was made so that Keswick Film Club could send a Shelter Box to aid the Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims, and the generous audience contributed a total of £237. The committee thereupon decided to make up from Club funds the required £400 to send the Shelter Box to Japan.

A new committee heralds a new season in the autumn which will be eagerly awaited. In the meantime heartfelt thanks go to retiring Chairman and Membership Secretary Rod Evans for all his unstinting work and enthusiasm over the past seven years.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

Since then, the club has won Film Society Of The Year and awards for Best Programme four times and Best Website twice.

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