Japanese Director Kaneto Shindo Sends Personal 'Postcard' to Oscar Voters
The latest film from the 99-year-old helmer is based on his experience as a WWII soldier, and is Japan's foreign-language Academy Awards hopeful.
TOYKO -- As casualties mounted among the Japanese army during the Second World War, Kaneto Shindo, who had already begun his career in the movie business, was one of a group of a hundred middle-aged men conscripted.
While awaiting his fate, Shindo’s wife sent a postcard saying simply that the annual summer festival was not the same without him. With all the military mail censored at the time, his wife expressed all she could through this simple but poignant phrase.
The first 60 men chosen all perished when their troop ship was sunk on the way to the Philippines. By the end of the war, only the six men who had not yet been sent to battle survived out of the hundred. Shindo was one of them.
“My father carried the weight of being one of those few survivors, and it grew heavier as he got older,” explains Jiro Shindo, the director’s son, who has produced six of his father’s films. “I heard the story of his wartime experiences and the postcard many times when I was growing up.”
In 2010, aged 98, Shindo senior decided to use the memories he had carried with him to express his feelings about war in the final film of his 77-year career, Postcard. Although the film features the postcard and a soldier who is one of the six survivors from his hundred-man unit, the story focuses on the grief and tribulations of a war widow struggling to deal with the aftermath of loss.
“The point of the film is to show the impact of the death of every soldier on the ones left behind,” says Jiro Shindo.
With the director wheelchair-bound and his eyesight failing, the future of their independent production company rested on completing the project, despite the challenges, according to Shindo junior.
“It was hard work: with a company our size, if we had to abandon the film in the middle of shooting, we’d go bankrupt,” says Shindo. “That didn’t stop my father complaining at me that I’d made him shoot the film in 15 days less than he needed. But it had to be done that way because of the budget.
“The crew had worked with him many times before, so they understood what his vision was. It was very emotional when they finished shooting as he knew it would be the last time they worked together.”