“Jun-Ai,” meaning “A True Love,” has already screened to international acclaim, garnering several awards over the past few years. Most recently, “Jun-Ai” received Sedona International Film Festival’s 2012 Bridging Cultures Award, a precursor to many of the filmmakers’ plans to mark the world with peace.
But the development of the film’s mission had begun long ago. Back in 1999, Japanese actor and producer Keiko Kobayashi began building an elementary school on China’s Tai Mountain. With the work completed in 2004, she started filming “Jun-Ai”. As its screenwriter, executive producer and star, Kobayashi’s on a cross-cultural mission to unite the planet behind the film’s motto: “One World, One Love, One Family”.
“Jun-Ai” takes place in Manchukuo, a puppet state of Imperial Japan between 1932 and 1945. Located in Northeastern China, it was home to 850,000 Japanese settlers. Fictional characters Ai (a nurse) and Shunsuke (a teacher) are immigrants abandoned by the Japanese after they lose the wwar.
Struggling to return to Japan, Ai and Shunsuke stumble upon a small farm owned by a blind woman whose husband was slaughtered by Japanese soldiers, and her adult son, Shanron. Bitter with hatred towards the Japanese, Shanron wants to kill the two, but his mother manages to find forgiveness not long after the atrocities that traumatized her family. As Shunsuke and Ai reinvent themselves as useful farm workers, they’re on constant guard against villagers who taunt, tease and threaten them. Finally, Shunsuke escapes, but leaves Ai behind to grapple with babies, sickness, life, death and the love of Shanron.
Recently, Kobayashi discussed with the International Examiner the making of “Jun-Ai.”
Kobayashi: Not only Japan and China, but there are countries which border each other that are in a war or disagreement all over the world. The most important thing is to set visions or goals which are common in both parties.
The vision of “Jun-Ai” was to create world peace through Japanese-Chinese collaboration. Foreign diplomats and ambassadors often refer to “Jun-Ai” as “a recipe for reconciliation”.
IE: Explain how you chose pop star Yasutaka to play young Shunsuke.
Kobayashi: I felt strongly that the only actor who could play one specific role at the end of the movie, which is the highlight, was Yusuke Kawazu. I visualized him playing this particular role when I was writing the screenplay. Thus, we searched for a similar-looking young actor to play the younger Shunsuke.
IE: The Japanese actors speak really good Chinese.
Kobayashi: We repeated our dialogues many times and practiced consecutively. Both Yasutaka and I prepared ourselves to become Shunsuke and Ai for several years before even shooting the movie.
IE: How did Chinese people in the area feel about you tackling this subject?
Kobayashi: At the beginning of filming in a Chinese village, farmers (especially elderly people) were concerned about us filming the China-Japan war scene. However, as we proceeded, the local people became close with Japanese actors and staff members. As a result, the hotel where we stayed became a very popular place to have a wedding ceremony and reception because our movie title “Jun-Ai” means “a true love”.
IE: What’s next?
Kobayashi: Our biggest vision is to translate this movie into all languages and show it in every country. The U.S. is a melting pot with people from many different nationalities, so it’s ideal for Americans and, we’d like to show it throughout the States. People who view this movie become “Jun-Ai” partners if they wish, and can organize and host screenings. We’re leasing DVDs and Blu-ray Discs to our screening partners and to educational organizations. Theatrical distribution or television would be wonderful if we can find good partners. We’ve also entered film festivals.
IE: How can we help?
Kobayashi: View “Jun-Ai” and introduce it to those who are important to you. Utilize our “Pay it Forward” program. Donate to “Jun-Ai” or purchase goods such as the CD soundtrack that allows us to screen to people in the disaster area of Tohoku where the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck.
IE: Finally, why build schools?
Kobayashi: When I was in plays and appeared on TV in China, I found out there are so many children who could not receive an education. Also, I saw a Chinese teacher teaching children to become anti-Japan and anti-Japanese. When I saw that, I thought that China and Japan would never be able to reconcile and have true peace. Thus, I decided to build an elementary school and kindergarten in China and educate children at a young age to live harmoniously with everyone, regardless of one’s nationality, race, tribe or religion.
Whether she’s building schools or making films, Kobayashi’s purpose is true to her motto and growing movement: “One World, One Love, One Family.”
Special thanks to Keiko Kobayashi, and our gratitude to Midori Kikuchi for translating. For more information about “Jun-Ai” and its whereabouts, please visit the film’s web site: http://jun-ai.biz/.