Black Filmmakers Find Their Creative Niche in Japan

Black filmmakers have been making their mark in The Land of the Rising Sun.  Nowadays, filmmakers do not need to go to Hollywood become a successful.  Don’t get me wrong.  Hollywood is still the place to make it if you want to be in this industry.  However, people have been venturing outside the United States to find recognition and finding success.  

Film is a powerful medium that can have a tremendous impact anywhere in the world.  International markets play an integral role in making films successful just like their domestic counterparts.  For example, whenever a film does not do well in the US, it might do better internationally.  Therefore, filmmakers should not limit their options to making films in the US.  

There is a huge world out there and stepping out your comfort zone will create opportunities that you thought never existed before.  As long as filmmakers continue telling good stories, then people are going to come out watch them.  It is important as a filmmaker to develop a connection with the audience if you want to become successful.  Two important figures making their mark in Japan are Aaron Woolfolk and Darryl Wharton-Rigby.

One young filmmaker that made his niche in Japan is Aaron Woolfolk, the first black American to direct a feature film in Japan.  Some of his works include the comedy Eki(The Station) and Kuroi Hitsuji(Black Sheep).  However, one film that has made an impact on me is called Harimaya Bridge starring Ben Guillory and Danny Glover.  The project is based on Aaron’s own experience as an English teacher in Japan.  It does a good job of bridging the gap between Japanese and American culture.  As a viewer, understanding the importance of cultural differences is one theme that translates throughout the film.  

The story revolves around a black father named Daniel Holder (Ben Guillory) and his deep resentment towards the Japanese.  His father died in a POW camp during WWII.  Daniel’s son Mickey, a talented artist, takes a position as an English teacher in Japan and falls in love with a young Japanese woman.  Unfortunately, he gets killed in an auto accident and Mr. Holder goes to Japan to collect his paintings.  However, he was only met with resistance.  

It is important to understand the way different cultures interact with each other.  Every culture has their own way of doing things and people have to respect that.  The ability to adapt to other cultures is the key to survival in this world.  Eventually, Daniel had to face the facts and re-evaluate how he views the Japanese people.  It makes you think outside the box and avoids making stereotypes about a group of people that you do not know about without experiencing their culture.  

Daniel and Noriko at the Harimaya Bridge.









View the link to the trailer and article below:

Another important filmmaker making his mark in Japan is Darryl Wharton-Rigby best known for serving as writer on the popular show Homocide: Life On The Street.  He has worked as writer/director in both the US and Japan for NHK, BET, MTV, and NBC.  Other works include the documentary Don Doko Don: The Yamakiya Taiko Club Story, short film Obon about the Japanese tsunami, and his feature debut Detention in he received Best Director at the Urbanworld Film Festival.  

Anyone interested can watch it right now:

<p><a href=”″>Detention</a&gt; from <a href=””>Darryl Wharton-Rigby</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p> <p>Detention<br /> <br />

The most recent project that he wrote/produced/directed is the indie feature film Stay about a recovering drug addict who meets a young lady that becomes a catalyst for change in his life.  The film stars up and coming Japanese actor Shogen and British model/actress Ana Tanaka.  It shows a different side of Tokyo not normally seen in the media.  I think this film will expose another side of Tokyo that the public never knew existed.  Darryl moved from Fukushima to Tokyo to make the film.  I pasted a video containing some of his most recent work below.  Check it out:


“Stay” Shows a Different Side of Tokyo

<p><a href=”″>Darryl Wharton-Rigby Directing Reel</a> from <a 

“The casting was done by Ko Iwagamai.   Veteran Japanese actors make up the supporting cast.  They are Shoichi Honda, Kenji Iwai, Michiko Kodoma, Shima Obnishi, Tei Tomari, and Natsuhi Ueno.  Photographer Jeremy Goldberg shot the project with the Black Majic camera.  Gudni Gudnason and Robert Schwartz produced the film under Fusion for Peace Productions, their Tokyo-based company (FEVATV).”   

The future for black filmmakers in Japan looks bright.  I strongly believe that many more of us will make the leap and find more nonconventional ways of making it outside of Hollywood.  

Check out other articles that I posted below and feel free to comment.

About wmckenzie95

I am passionate about travel and learning about other cultures. On my free time, I love to listen to music and watch movies. Some countries that I really want to visit are Japan and France.
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