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Out of This World: Music connects people

by Bernadette Bass, staff writer


 

The eighth annual Hawai’i International Film Festival (HIFF) Spring Showcase, April 1 through 7, commemorated the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific.

With this focus, on Sat. April 2, HIFF presented the Hawai’i premiere of Out of This World (Kono Yo No Sotoe Club Shinchugun), written and directed by Sakamoto Junji.

The film begins in Japan after World War II ends. A Japanese soldier, Hirooka Kentaro, returns home and finds a Japanese band playing jazz music for the Americans who have won the war. He meets up with one of the band members, Hirayama “Joe” Ichijo, who plays bass. Kentaro and Joe were both in high school military band before the war. Joe tells Kentaro that some of the old military band members are in the band he plays for, and they make good money playing at different hotels.

Kentaro, whose father sold most of the band members their instruments, trading them for army weapons, forms his own band, the Lucky Strikers, with Joe and other former soldiers: Ikeshima Shozo on drums, and Oono Akira on piano. They are hired to play at the Enlisted Men’s Club, a bar for American soldiers. On opening night they add another Japanese veteran to the band, Hiro, the trumpet player.

Backstage, conflict arises when an American soldier, Russell, who lost his brother in the war, calls the musicians “Japs” says they are an insult to jazz. The club manager, an American sergeant, Jim, tries to explain Russell’s behavior, but in a later scene Kentaro returns the insult, calling American music the “music of the enemy.”

The Lucky Strikers continue to play jazz and eventually Kentaro and Russell form a bond, and Russell even composes a song for Kentaro, who is eager for more music to play.

One day Russell finds Hiro dead from a drug overdose, on a bathroom floor in a bar. He is the one who must tell Kentaro. The incident deepens their friendship, but soon after it, Russell is deployed to Korea to fight in another war.

A few months later, Jim, the American sergeant who manages the club, tells Kentaro that Russell died in combat. As tribute to his American friend, Kentaro has the band play the song Russell wrote for him, “Out of This World,” and both the Americans and the Japanese put aside their differences in sorrow for a lost comrade.

Because the film shows the aftereffects of war from a Japanese point of view, it is an excellent choice for HIFF’s showcase of the Lessons of War. Although the film may not provide a full understanding of the differences of the two cultures, it does provide insight into the humanity of soldiers and the common postwar challenges they faced.

The film, in Japanese and English with English subtitles, is especially appropriate for people in Hawai‘i, where a variety of different cultures have integrated.

 
 
 
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