Don't go see The Harimaya Bridge after it opens today at Regal Wetspark 8 in Irvine because it is the first feature film from the Japanese film industry to be directed by an African-American.
See it because it's a pretty good little picture.
Directed by Aaron Woolfolk and executive produced by Danny Glover, who also has a supporting role, The Harimaya Bridge does not scream "sweeping epic." It whispers "small, personal indie production."
That means there are some warts--like a wooden performance here, a stereotypical character assignment there and brief moments sprinkled throughout where something seems lost in translation--that could not be fixed with multiple takes, a bigger budget and a more script polishing.
But The Harimaya Bridge still manages to command your interest through the closing scenes.
Daniel Holder (Ben Guillory) is an African-American photographer who despises Japan for personal reasons and disapproved of his artist-teacher son Mickey (Victor Grant) having moved there.
However, when Daniel's estanged son dies in an accident in Japan, the father gets it in his head that he should possess all the artwork Mickey created and gave away to friends and admirers throughout Japan.
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Daniel is welcomed to the Land of the Rising Sun like royalty by those who knew and loved Mickey--until they discover the father's ulterior motives.
Among the most effective scenes in The Harimaya Bridge involve watching the Japanese characters, especially Mickey's education colleague Yuiko Hara (Misa Shimizu), attempt to maintain politeness when confronted by the ugly American.
But it really picks up steam thanks to a plot twist in the final act. It turns out paintings were not the only gift to Mickey's legacy the younger Holder left in Japan.
It's not a bad first effort by Woolfolk, who also wrote the script and is a former Walt Disney Studios/ABC Entertainment writing fellow and Directors Guild of America Best African-American Student Filmmaker Award winner. He also won the Best First Time Narrative Feature Directing honors at the 2010 Pan-African Film Festival.