By Chitose Nakagawa/Kyodo News
LOS ANGELES — A Japanese film director based in Los Angeles has made a film about how people have drawn strength from the story of 12-year-old Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Director Miyuki Sohara made “Orizuru 2015” in the hope that it will promote peace and kindness among humankind. Sohara, who is 46, said she was inspired by the life of Sadako, who died in 1955 — 10 years after being exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima bombing.
Sadako was healthy until she was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 12. Believing that her wish to get better would come true if she folded 1,000 cranes, Sadako began folding origami paper cranes in her hospital bed. Unfortunately, her wish was never realized.
Sadako became a symbol of peace, nevertheless, and a statue of her was erected in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
“My wish is that this film will offer the audience the opportunity to think about war and peace,” Sohara said.
The 20-minute film debuted at the Hiroshima International Film Festival last November. It will make its U.S. debut in May.
The film is the story of a Japanese boy in the fifth grade who is struggling to adjust to his new life after moving to Los Angeles from his native Japan. His attitude changes after learning about Sadako in one of his classes and meeting Sadako’s brother, Masahiro, and a U.S. veteran who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Sohara’s 11-year-old son Takamaro plays the Japanese boy and her 9-year-old daughter, Reyna, plays the role of Sadako Sasaki. Sohara said she actually learned about Sadako from a textbook her son had brought home from school.
Sohara said Japanese children are sometimes bullied in the U.S. when Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor is discussed in school. Meanwhile, schools worldwide, often use Sadako’s story in teaching about the bombings.
Sohara said “Orizuru 2015” does not question which country — Japan, or the United States — was more responsible for the tragedy. Rather, it is aimed at teaching children that wars should never be waged.
“I was moved by the real story that paper cranes were serving as a bridge between Japan and the United States,” Sohara said, referring to the friendship between Clifton Truman Daniel — the eldest grandson of former President Harry Truman, who ordered the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and Masahiro, and Daniel’s subsequent visit to Hiroshima in 2012.
A native of Miyazaki Prefecture, Sohara was previously a broadcaster in Toyama and, later, in Yamanashi Prefecture. She moved to New York in 1999 and then, three years later, to Los Angeles. A former actress, she appeared as a geisha in the film, “The Last Samurai,” which starred Tom Cruise.
Sohara directed her first film, “Hannari — Geisha Modern,” in 2006. The film documented the lives of geisha in Kyöto. She said she made the film to counter the stereotypical depictions of geisha in Hollywood movies.
“I make films because I want more people to know about Japan’s wonderful culture and the people’s wonderful spirit,” Sohara said.