The Japan Foundation, Madrid
After the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, the Japan Foundation Madrid received an inquiry from the Spanish Film Academy (Academia Española de Cine). They said they'd like to hold a film showing to express their solidarity with the affected people and asked us to recommend a Japanese film suitable for the occasion.
We carefully considered the list of Japanese films available from a number of Spanish distribution companies and decided that Hula Girls (directed by Sang-il Lee, 2006) was just the one that would do. The film was set in Fukushima Prefecture, one of the three prefectures hit hardest by the earthquake and tsunami, which was suffering from the effects of the accident at the nuclear power plant as well. It was based on the true story of how hula dance and hot springs helped a town overcome the stagnation that resulted from the decline of its coal mines. When we described the synopsis, the Spanish Film Academy gladly accepted our choice. It was screened on April 1 in a relatively small venue that could only fit 200 people, yet the seats were almost full. After the showing, many people came by to express their admiration for the courage of Japanese people, and to give their sympathy toward the stricken areas.
I was deeply moved by the film itself. I gave thought to the fact that the people of Fukushima, who had been struggling to survive in the film, were now faced with an extremely difficult situation. I also felt a sense of gratitude to the people of Spain who had expressed their warm solidarity. All these feelings mixed together, and I was unable to raise my head for a while. The CEO of the Spanish distribution company for Hula Girls was also at the screening. He is a huge fan of Japanese films. He enthusiastically told us, "From now on, I want to express Spanish people's sense of solidarity with Japanese people through this film. I would love to show it in Barcelona, where our company headquarters are." The regional government of Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, subsequently declared April 23 to be the "Day of Solidarity with Japan," and various events to pray for Japan's swift recovery after the disaster were held in the city. We also heard that Hula Girls was aired on TV that day in Barcelona.
We offer our sincerest prayers that the people in the disaster-stricken areas will overcome the many difficulties that they face now and walk the path toward recovery, just like the Hula Girls. We at the Japan Foundation, Madrid, along with many people in Spain, would like the affected people to know that they are always in our thoughts.
The official blog for the film Hula Girls (http://blog.excite.co.jp/hula-girl/)