Japanese director's Yangtze film hailed for boosting China-Japan ties

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 9, 2024
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Japanese director Ryo Takeuchi's documentary film about China's Yangtze River and the people living along its banks was praised for its cultural value and role in promoting Sino-Japanese cultural exchanges during a special screening in Beijing on Wednesday.

Japanese director Ryo Takeuchi speaks at an event promoting the theatrical release of the documentary film "The Yangtze River" in Beijing, capital of China, June 5, 2024. [Photo courtesy of the China Center for International Communication Development]

"Although I am not Chinese, I have loved the Yangtze River since childhood. If the Yangtze is the mother river of the Chinese people, then because I am a son-in-law of China, she should be my 'mother-in-law river,'" Takeuchi said during a Q&A session with the audience at the screening of "The Yangtze River." Takeuchi's wife, Zhao Ping, who hails from Nanjing, Jiangsu province, served as the film's producer and hosted the event. The couple, who married in 2007, relocated to Nanjing in 2013 with their two children.

The Yangtze River, known as China's mother river, has been the cradle of Chinese civilization for millennia, shaping the country's geography, cultural heritage, and national spirit. Takeuchi's film focuses on the sweeping changes that have taken place along the river over the past decade, showcasing China's rapid economic development and social progress. The film presents the Yangtze's stunning landscapes while shedding light on the inspiring stories of ordinary people living on its banks, offering a profound glimpse into China's grandeur and resilience, as well as the evolving mindsets of its people.

Takeuchi said he was fascinated by manga tales from ancient China's Three Kingdoms period during his childhood, particularly the Battle of Red Cliffs on the Yangtze River. Upon first witnessing the immense Yangtze, he said his amazement was profound, especially given his background in Japan, where rivers are not as vast.

In 2011, Takeuchi produced a hit NHK documentary series, "A Journey to the Yangtze River," but he regretted not capturing the glacier melts that form the river's headwaters. To rectify this, he retraced the entire 6,300-kilometer length of the river in 2021, visiting places such as Chongqing and Shangri-La, which resulted in this new documentary.

Making this film reunited Takeuchi with old friends like Rinchen Cimu, a Tibetan girl he met in 2011 while making the NHK series. The new documentary highlighted her life and love story, showcasing her transformation from a shy young girl to a confident woman fulfilling her dream of opening a guesthouse. Cimu appeared at the Beijing event to share her stories and reflections.

Takeuchi emphasized the importance of authenticity and stated that he doesn't impose his ideas on the audience; instead, he allows viewers to interpret the film themselves. He noted that audience reactions, such as laughter and tears, were strikingly similar in China and Japan. "So I knew many emotions resonate universally," he pointed out.

Wu Hailong, president of the China Public Diplomacy Association, praised Takeuchi's approach: "Mr. Takeuchi filmed the Yangtze River with great care and affection, not only presenting its magnificent landscapes but also exploring its humanistic value.

"He has allowed the Japanese people and people worldwide to see a more vivid and authentic China. I sincerely hope that Mr. Takeuchi can play a bridging role in promoting friendly relations between the Chinese and Japanese peoples and make even greater contributions."

Japanese Ambassador to China Kenji Kanasugi also attended the event and delivered a speech, stating: "The film was released in Japan on April 12 and received acclaim. I sincerely hope more Chinese friends can see this documentary, appreciate the magnificent natural scenery, and feel the subtle changes in people's sentiments.

"There is a saying in both Chinese and Japanese: 'Seeing once is better than hearing a hundred times,' so I hope Chinese audiences have the opportunity to visit Japan, like director Takeuchi, and discover the true face of Japan with their own eyes, enabling China and Japan to move towards a better future through deepening exchanges and understanding."

"The Yangtze River" has yet to become a commercial blockbuster, and Takeuchi joked that his film was overshadowed at the box office by Japanese animated features. In Japan, it contended with "Detective Conan: The Million-dollar Pentagram" in April, while in China, it faced competition from "Doraemon the Movie: Nobita's Earth Symphony" upon its May release. However, the film claimed the top spot on Japan's art-house theatrical releases chart, resonating with many Japanese audiences and reshaping their perceptions of China. Takeuchi has been on a two-month roadshow culminating in Beijing, interacting with audiences of different backgrounds, ages and nationalities. The film has received an impressive 8.3 out of 10 rating on the review aggregation platform Douban.

Japanese director Ryo Takeuchi (first left) and guests join in a ceremony to launch the theatrical release of the documentary film "The Yangtze River" in Beijing, capital of China, June 5, 2024. [Photo courtesy of the China Center for International Communication Development]

Known for authentic, fun and down-to-earth documentaries like "Nanjing's Anti-epidemic Scene" and "Long Time No See, Wuhan," which went viral in China and Japan and were translated into over 10 languages, garnering tens of millions of social media views, Takeuchi is passionate about China and its culture and strives for people-to-people exchange. He won the inaugural 2023 Orchid Awards, established by China International Communications Group (CICG), to recognize outstanding contributions to promoting cultural exchanges and mutual learning between China and foreign countries.

When asked in Beijing why his work resonates strongly with Chinese audiences, Takeuchi replied, "It's a mutual feeling of appreciation. Because I have a deep love for Chinese culture, its people and their stories, Chinese audiences reciprocate that love in the same way."

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