Â The Harimaya Bridge
By Sam Johnson
The life of an artist has always been an interesting life to examine. Whether it’s a musician, actor, or even a painter, the lives of these individuals is often extreme. They are usually either triumph or tragic. Contrary to popular belief the failure or success of the individuals has a lot to do with the inner circle of support the artist has to keep fire burning, and the passion persistent of the talents they have inside of them.
In The Harimaya Bridge we follow the story of Daniel Holder (Ben Guillory) whose father was killed fighting the Japanese during World War II, which is something he thought he had made peace with a while ago, until something recently happens to reopens a chapter in his life of a book he thought was closed. As Daniel’s son Mickey, a painter, takes a job in Japan as an English teacher it puts a stray on their relationship. After Mickey dies in a tragic car accident, Daniel’s reexamines his life and feelings toward a country he feels is not only responsible for the death of his father, but now his son as well. He goes to Japan to get his sons final paintings, in spite of his feelings toward Japan. Though Daniel is well received with kindness and the influence of his son is shown in a variety of ways he is still bitter and does not confront his negative feelings.
The Harimya Bridge theme derived a legacy of history in Japanese culture. In Edo Period (1603 to 1868) it was the bridge that connected two stores, Harima-ya and Hitsu-ya. Although it was originally a private path, the bridge became of much use by the public and hosted a variety of businesses. Research shows over a course period of time it eventually served as the central location which local stores could conduct business.
The metaphor of The Harimya Bridge was to show the gap between African-Americans and the Japanese culture and how Daniel’s son used his art and love for the culture, and teaching English to open the lines of communication a culture he loved. Unfortunately, Mickey’s father didn’t have the same admiration and respect as the film showed stereotypes that certain cultures have about other cultures. In the beginning of the film there was a scene were Daniel was welcomed into Mickey’s house. He was informed that out of respect he should take off his shoes upon entering the rooms of the home. Daniel, who was still holding on to grudges, intentionally walked into his own son’s home with completely disregarding the bi-laws of Japanese culture. It was here alongside several other panicle points in the film where the perception of Americans being rude was brought to the forefront.
No stranger to the world of independent films, Aaron Woolfolk has just knocked one out of the park with his history lessons of culture, appreciation and understanding of art and most of all his creative ability to develop such a rich story with characters of such great dept. The film which has received recognition from the Pan African Film and Arts Festival, paints a beautiful picture of ying and yang by colliding two worlds whom appear to different at first but later find out they have more in common than they thought. Definitely, one for the books, The Harimay Bridge will leave one eager and wanting to explore the world of Japanese culture even more. Woolfolk was able to capture the essence of the culture, through music, the ever popular Kabuki theater and also who can forget the art/fashion that has set many trends and become so Americanized today. For that accomplishment alone, he places himself in a league of his own. If this is just the debut of Woolfolk he definitely has a bright future ahead of him when it comes to film. He’s not only a student of film but he’s sincere about his craft and the importance of what it means to study art.