Article #58: Journeys from Japan

Taking on any documentary film project means being ready to go anywhere your story leads you. In the case of My Shanghai, the roads have linked oceans, decades and cultures, with one exit off the I-5 in Keizer, Oregon. This is where I found Thomas Crossland.

Thomas is a Japanese print dealer. Wherefore, ahead of its March premiere, My Shanghai is on display in his online gallery of Japanese woodblock prints, ukiyoe-gallery.com. The business grew out of his passion for old Japanese culture and the lengths he has taken to explore it, including two solo bicycle trips covering 1,600 miles in 1995 and 1997.

Library Article #58
Article #58, “My Shanghai: Life’s Four Seasons Through Japanese Prints” by Thomas Crossland, ukiyoe-galley.com

Of woodblock prints, Thomas writes, “Words such as dreamlike, hypnotic, and mystical do not seem to even fully describe the degree to which these magical works of art move me. But, in their viewing, I find myself clearly taken from the present and moved back in time….”

I had emailed him a couple of months ago about Virginia’s collection. He not only smoothed the way for me to make contact with the original Japanese publishers of her prints, he offered to publicize the film and even made a donation. More evidence that My Shanghai can take you where you didn’t expect to go.

Thomas has put together an extensive, thoughtful story on Virginia, me and My Shanghai entitled “Library Article #58”. Well, it has a fancier title, but I kind of like that one. Article #58 circles back through myshanghaifilm.com archives to highlight where we’ve been and where we’re going… which is to California for our World Premiere at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival on March 8!

Until then, you’ll find us in Thomas Crossland’s gallery next to some other rare beauties.

PHW

© 2014 First Straw Films LLC / My Shanghai LLC

When is an island not an island?

I’m no expert on Chinese-Japanese relations, not by a long shot. But my research for My Shanghai has prompted me to try and understand the issues underlying the serious disputes over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. China claims them as the Diaoyu, Japan claims them as the Senkaku. The potential mineral assets and fishing hauls don’t seem to account for the more than 300 times Japan has scrambled fighter jets against Chinese aircraft in the past year, nor the car-smashing protests that have sprung up all over China.

Islands in the storm: Senkaku or Diaoyu
(photo credit http://www.guardian.co.uk)

An article by Ian Buruma in the May 11 Review section of the Wall Street Journal lays out the historical, political and cultural dynamics of it all especially well, I think. What strikes me is how symbolic these rocks are, and how fragile. One of them, known as Red Back North Island by the Chinese and North Islet by the Japanese, is said to be only 50 yards wide, the size of an Olympic swimming pool. So it’s not about the rocks.

Before World War II, Shanghai itself was like an island in China, carved out as a treaty port at the end of the Opium Wars in the mid-1800s — still Chinese territory (unlike Hong Kong), but ruled by foreigners, mainly British, Americans and French. This is the environment Virginia grew up in, an international city inside China.

Bill MCutcheon also grew up in Shanghai. He’s the guy who won her heart in Lunghwa camp and married her as soon as he could after the war. Bill worked for the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, and his first posting after the war was Hong Kong. The second was Tokyo.

Virginia will be the first to tell you that even as the “incidents” between the Chinese and Japanese tore up the outskirts of Shanghai in the ’30s, even as the Japanese marched in to occupy the city after Pearl Harbor, even as she and her mother and many loved ones were forced into camps for the duration of the war, she carries no resentment.

“Fortunately there’d been a few years between being in Shanghai and having been in Hong Kong next, and then back to Japan,” she told me. “And the years had sort of healed a lot of people.”

Virginia made up her mind to embrace the arts in Japan. Her home today is filled with Asian art, both Chinese and Japanese, and she still practices ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. Can a focus on the arts bring two cultures back together in today’s world? Buruma writes, “For much of its history, Japan looked up to China as the center of civilization.” And, “Before the Japanese invaded their country in the 1930s, many Chinese viewed Japan as a model of modernity.”

As I sit quietly at my desk on a Friday afternoon, I’ve just googled to find a picture I could use here. And up comes a headline on ndtv.com: “China ships have entered disputed-islands waters off the Senkaku Islands: Japan.” Another incident?

My Shanghai is not about the Senkakus or the Daioyus. For us, the history helps to give a little more context to one woman’s life, her personal story, and her claim on the waters around her. And it’s not too much to hope that some healing can be found in the waters of the East China Sea.

phw

© 2013 First Straw Films

The drive is live, thank you

The countdown has begun! Our Kickstarter campaign launched today —

kickstarter-logo-k-color

The drive is live on this very exciting link!

— which, if all goes well, will raise $20,000 for the My Shanghai budget. We’ll use the money for sound editing and mixing, color correction, and an original score by Jonathan Geer. Whatever is left over will help us pay for film festival submissions, travel, printing postcards and posters, coffee…

$20K in 30 days.

It’s tempting to break down your Kickstarter goal into an average daily pledge that you need to attract in order to collect your funding at the end. But like the statistical 2.4 children per American household, it’s not very helpful. 30 days is too short to have a “typical” donation experience. Anyway, I prefer to think about our needs in other, less mathematical terms:

20,000  ÷ 30 = 1,000 thanks per moment

Our backers will be rewarded for their generosity. This, too, is hard to calculate. They’ll get stuff, but mostly they’ll get thanks. Our DVDs and streaming downloads come with large quantities of appreciation. We anticipate a lesser number of official hats and VIP passes will go out, but these, too, come with an abundance of gratitude. At this moment, we’ve received $375 in pledges.

 375 = gratitude x abundance

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Amazing, isn’t it?

You know what Virginia’s story is about. Please spend a little time on the Kickstarter page and consider pledging your support. Forget the math and do the moment. Oh, and tell your friends.

Thank you.

phw

© 2013 First Straw Films