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Director of "GAIA Symphony" movies visits Okinawa

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-08-14

The "GAIA Symphony 3" was shown at the Yomitan Social Welfare Center last Sunday, August 9. The movie brought together both first time viewers of the "GAIA Symphony" film series, and also long time fans. The showing gave the audience a very special surprise, by having the director, Jin Tatsumura, on hand to talk about his film and sign some autographs. Artist Bokunen Naka also joined Tatsumura on stage for their views about GAIA.

Tatsumura's latest creation introduces you to Michio Hoshino, the well known Japanese wildlife photographer who was killed in an accident in 1996 filming bears. Interviews of friends from his home in Alaska bring you close to the man and his love for nature. Especially interesting are the many comments form Native Americans, giving you their view on Hoshino's special relationship with the bear and nature. Also featured in the film are American Nainoa Thompson and British Dyson Freeman. Thompson navigated the Hokulea from Hawaii to Tahiti using only the stars, the moon, and other aspects of nature. His voyage proved that it was possible for ancient Polynesians to make the long trip by canoe to Hawaii, and also brought respect for beliefs and rituals that once connected us with the earth. Dyson Freeman is a popular author and naturalist, and was filmed along with his son re-visiting one of the isolated areas of Alaska. His views on space and time are also brought to the screen.

Tatsumura himself is a very deep individual. He brings to conversation a very broad understanding of nature and all living creatures. He has the ability to see beyond our own boundaries, and brings you along with him.

He made the first "GAIA Symphony" movie in 1992. "We first starting filming in 1989. The movie was actually finished in 1991, but no movie theatres would show it. It took one year to get the movie to the public. I had to agree to purchase the first 3,000 tickets myself to get the movie shown at a theatre in Tokyo," he explained. Since that time, "GAIA Symphony 2" was released in 1995, and the most recent GAIA movie was first shown in November of last year. Over 1,300,000 people have seen the films, and the number is steadily increasing. All the GAIA Symphony movies stress the relationship between earth, plants, animals, and humans.

Born in Hyogo Prefecture in 1940, the director claims he always had a feeling for nature, but that there was no one particular incident that inspired him to make the first GAIA film. "It was more of a natural process," said Tatsumura.

His early days in film were spent directing commercials, dramas, and documentaries. When he brought the GAIA project to the planning tables he was faced with budget problems, but overcame them with the help of many volunteers, and a young staff who believed in Tatsumura's idea. "We had many amateurs on the crew, but everyone shared the same feeling for the movie. It brought together many different talents and individuals," explained Tatsumura.

The success of all three "GAIA Symphony" films has been largely due to the dedication of many individuals, who show the movie at small theatres and community centers across the nation. The cult following has kept Tatsumura busy, visiting many places around Japan. The popularity of the movies has also prompted Tatsumura to continue his work, and he told us that "GAIA Symphony 4" can be expected for release in the year 2000. "I don't know who will be in the next "GAIA Symphony". If we write the scenario, we are limited to just that plan, so we try to be very flexible. I like to be spontaneous and use my intuition when filming," said Tatsumura about his next film.

Tatsumura believes that the destruction of our earth and of human society can be traced to the disappearance of the belief in mythology and religion. "They are very important for our relationship with nature. The beliefs keep us connected with the earth, and without them we loose our respect for nature," explained Tatsumura. The theme can be constantly seen in "GAIA Symphony 3", which shows the traditions of the native people of both Alaska and Hawaii.

Although Tatsumura can not say which place or person most impressed him over the several years of filming, he did say that each subject holds a special meaning for each moment.

Tatsumura plans to release an English version for each of the "GAIA Symphony" movies soon. Although the current showings are in Japanese, many of the interviews are done in English with Japanese sub titles, and the movie is also very visually entertaining. You can catch "GAIA Symphony 2" at the Palette Kumoji Citizens Theatre in Naha on August 16 at 1:30 and 5:30 pm. Tickets will be on sale at the door, but be sure to get there early.

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