To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own …

My squad is my family, my gun is my provider, and protector, and my rule is to kill or be killed.

Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Title
 Kaze ni tatsu raion  (2015) 
Also known as
 The Lion Standing in The Wind
Genre
Drama,    Historical,     Romance
Written by
Directed by
Starring
Country of Origin
Japan
Running time
139 minutes

oh! … background

Masashi Sada a Japanese singer, lyricist, composer, novelist, actor and film producer, wrote a song titled “Kaze ni Tatsu raion” that became popularised in 1987. The song was inspired by the true-life story of a Japanese doctor Dr Koichiro Shimada who operated a mobile clinic in Kenya. The song was a musical adaptation of actual letters Dr Koichiro Shimada wrote to the girlfriend he left behind in Japan.

Actor, Takao Osawa was genuinely stirred by the lyrics of the song and sincerely urged Masashi Sada to adapt the song into a novel and subsequently into a screenplay.

Masashi Sada wrote the novel and then the screenplay.

oh! … brief

Koichiro Shimada, a medical doctor working in a teaching hospital in Japan, decides to spend two years at a research facility in Kenya. While there, he is sent to aid a clinic operating in a war-infested area. He encounters a desperate situation at the clinic involving many child-soldiers, especially one who is not only physically wounded, but also mentally unstable following the harrowing experiences he survived. Dr Shimada makes a conscious decision to return to the clinic when his research term concludes. The decision changes his fate and that of the woman who loved him.

oh! … talks film

If you’re going to watch this you will need a box of Kleenex because this film is a tearjerker!

Just as the song is strong, so too is Masashi Sada’s screenplay. The writing of Dr Shimada (the character) portrayed him to be a successful, happy-go-lucky guy and an accomplished surgeon with a zest for life, a spring in his steps, and a ready smile that could melt any woman’s, heart. He is not a complex character to follow, but his life is multilayered and his story is tragic.

Masashi Sada’s screenplay took the time to establish a backstory – a romance in Japan with a woman who’s sense of duty to her family and her father’s medical practice prevents her from following her love to Africa.

The cinematography was outstanding. Realistic medical procedure scenes and incredibly authentic wounds on soldiers, child soldiers and civilians alike. These aspects alone make the film distressing to watch. Having lived in Africa during this period, when Kenya had civil unrest and a bloody war ongoing, I am fully aware of how dire the situation was and I believe Masashi Sada wrote this into the screenplay with true insight. This is a skillfully crafted melodrama. Given the song and the novel though, it is no surprise.

The development of the characters in Kenya was strong and the narration was fantastic! I am truly impressed with how the screenplay came together to deliver a package for the director and actors and actresses. Remarkable!

I was sceptical about Takashi Miike as the director. He is a prolific director, with more than 60 or 70 films to his name and most are known for their explicit and offensive depiction of violence and sex. I’ve only watched a few, I may need to revisit some of his more recent works to see if they are better.

I think he’s outdone himself with this masterpiece! I have a newfound respect for this director. Under his lead, Nobuyasu Kita produced some astonishingly beautiful scenes set in Japan and his repeated use of carefully calibrated long shots was amazing! Apparently, if Takashi Miike sets his mind to do classical filmmaking, he does it as well as any of the best of them and his manipulatively moving ending was heart-wrenching!

The costumes were a mix-up of hospital scrubs (obviously) and casual khaki pants and casual dress skirts and tops for the women. It was very simple and understated. But tasteful.

The accompanying music for the film has been hard to find online, but I haven’t given up entirely. It’s good!

So, for characters, there is no information, not even names that I have been able to find, for the African actors who participated, which I understand, but, I am frustrated about! Merit and recognition for the part they played in this production is warranted. Two, if not three characters did an amazing job, even if their roles were minor.

The protagonist, Dr Koichiro Shimada is played by Takao Osawa. Because I understand that he was touched by the story, song and pushed to have this developed into a film, it’s great that he got to play the lead. And he was exceptional in the role. Of course, his good looks and stunning smile were key to pulling the happy-go-lucky doctor off. But that’s just the surface and aesthetic aspect of his performance. Apart from smiling, which he did a lot, his facial expressions showed all the emotions of his character’s life – frustration, exasperation, concern, puzzlement, joy, sadness and love. It was breathtaking to watch Dr Shimada come to life with the masterful acting. Takao Osawa was no longer actor Takao Osawa, he was Dr Shimada. He lived and breathed the character and his interpretation was organic and faultless.

Takako Akishima, girlfriend to Dr Shimada was played by renowned Yoko Maki. She brought her skills to the table and then used every one of them to portray a woman torn between love, duty and a sense of responsibility. It was agonising to see the depth of emotion and turmoil displayed on her face and in the posture of her body. Yoko Maki’s performance was noteworthy.

Satomi Ishihara played Nurse Wakako Kusano, who also deploys to work in the clinic where Dr Shimada finds himself. Satomi Ishihara is such a stunning woman, physically, and it was complementary to have her play with the lead. But she’s also an accomplished actress in her own right. She has a very gentle way of performing that is exquisite to watch. She was astounding, and phenomenal in this role. The quick efficient movement during surgery. The kindness shown to the young soldier. The tender camaraderie she shares with Dr Shimada was breathtaking. You will want them to fall in love, desperately want them to have some happiness amidst all the turmoil and grisly day-to-day they survive. So, I’m sorry to report that the closest they get to anything romantic, is sharing mutual respect and friendship. Their on-screen chemistry though is discernible and tinged with sadness.

When Dr Shimada initially heads to Africa, he is not alone. A close friend and colleague, Dr Katsuhiko Aoki, also heads to Kenya with him. He is played by spirited Masato Hagiwara. The bromance between these two was fun to watch. The joking and sparring were a good pause from the tense situation. Masato Hagiwara was funny and lighthearted in his performance. It was pleasant.

oh! … sidekicks

Another good-looking man, Taro Tagami, who is obviously in love with Takako Akishima was played by heartthrob Ryohei Suzuki. This character was another to love because Ryohei Suzuki was marvellous. His interpretation of his character was extraordinary and he inhabited his role with every fibre of his being. Ryohei Suzuki’s tenderness to Takako Akishima was captivating, the nuanced performance, gentle smiles, quirky smiles and jovial benevolence shown through facial expression and body language. If you watch this film, you’ll see his love before Takako Akishima does! And the kind way he treats the parents.

(Sidenote: Since my first handwritten draft, I have managed to locate one of the names of one of the African actors)

The kind driver for the mobile clinic and later a friend to Dr Shimada was Afundi. He is played by Patrick Oketch, a well-known actor. He had a minor role but an important one – especially to the ending. Patrick Oketch gave a seamless performance and I enjoyed watching him. Watching him made me remember so many friends and colleagues that I left behind in Africa. I haven’t been back to see them in 17 years, my heart longed for them. Patrick Oketch was exactly how his character was written to be which is surprising given that the screenplay writer is Japanese and wouldn’t ordinarily know about African customs and culture. But this was an honest performance, so the writer and the actor brought the two together nicely.

I’d like to give a huge shout-out to the wonderful African boys who played the child-soldiers for this production. If you understand what exactly a child soldier is and what they are subjected to, you’ll understand that this is a hard role to have taken on.

A special mention to the actor who played Ndung’u (Michaelangelo aka Miche). I haven’t found his name yet, but I haven’t given up my search and I’m relentless. This kid was brilliant! His face – those surly expressions! Wow! And the acting for the drug withdrawal scene was agonising to watch. He has a bright future in film and acting if he continues on that path. I wish I knew his name!!

oh! … that’s a wrap

WOW! WOW! WOW!

This film came together so well – phenomenal acting, a master director, a poignant screenplay written by an accomplished writer, and fantastic cinematography!

But the story, the biography of this amazing man who lost his life in Kenya while working to save the lives of the wounded and his dedication and loyalty to those children – mind-blowing!

This film has joined my keepsakes collection. I know I’ll watch this again and again, it’s so beautiful but so tragic.

oh! … tidbits

“In (more than) twenty countries around the world, children are direct participants in war. Denied a childhood and often subjected to horrific violence, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 children are serving as soldiers for both rebel groups and government forces in current armed conflicts{ – P. W. Singer, Brookings Institution, 2003

Child soldiers are typically under the age of 18 and used for military purposes. They can be as young as five years old. Basically, any child who can carry a weapon and be taught to shoot it can become a child soldier.  (And the misconception that child soldiers are only boys is inaccurate. Girls can also be forced to become child soldiers.

Some child soldiers are used for fighting – to kill and commit other acts of violence. Others are used as cooks, porters, messengers, informants or spies, or in any other way their commanders want. Child soldiers are also used for sexual purposes.

Military organisations that recruit children find them easier than adults to entice or force into service. In general, children are more compliant and easier to manipulate.

Some children choose to join a military organisation as a route out of poverty, for protection, or as a way of making up for the loss of family or a lack of education.

In the chaos of armed conflict, children are often separated from their family. Some children have even been forced to witness the slaughter of their family and friends. These children are particularly vulnerable to all kinds of abuses, including recruitment by military organisations.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

 

oh! … trailers

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