Iwate Pref. Villagers to Produce Film Depicting Local Life

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People involved in the production of a film featuring Kunohe, Iwate Prefecture, pose for a photo at Ibonai High School in the village on Feb. 17.

KUNOHE, Iwate — A group of villagers has launched a project to produce a film to attract new residents to Kunohe, Iwate Prefecture. The group hopes the film, which is being made on a volunteer basis, will spread the charms of the village throughout Japan.

“Seishun Doden,” is an original story set in a small village with a population of about 5,500. Kunohe residents, such as high school students, will appear in the movie.

“I want to make this film a vehicle for us to proudly proclaim, ‘This is our village!’” said Kiyokatsu Shibata, the 50-year-old director, who also wrote the script.

The completed work is scheduled to be released in November.

The film centers on two people: a man who moved from Tokyo after struggling with his work and private life; and a high school student who, for family reasons, transferred from a school in Tokyo to Ibonai High School. The movie depicts how they grow emotionally through their encounters with people in the village. Shibata intends to feature local people’s lives and the area’s rich natural environment.

Shibata had felt frustrated by the fact that the Kunohe area, which has its own cultural sphere, is little known in the nation. That led him to plan the creation of the film, which is slated to have a running time of about 100 minutes. “Merely depicting in detail the lifestyles of people in the village would make for good entertainment,” he said.

Shibata hopes the film will be seen by people across Japan who have been grappling with problems related to the nation’s serious population decline, just like the Kunohe area. “I want to create a film that will reach people who are troubled by the current situation and are struggling to do something about it,” Shibata said.

Ibonai High School, which serves as the main setting for the movie, is the only high school in the village, with about 60 students. Members of the boys’ volleyball team are among those planning to appear in the movie. “I think this is a good opportunity for me to mature,” said Shido Yamamoto, a third-year student at the high school. “I want to experience everything.”

Since 2021, the school has been using a video-sharing site to release short films created to introduce club activities and people of the village practicing traditional kagura music and dance, among other topics. One of the uploaded works — created by Shibata and others — was well-received when it was shown at a short film festival in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, in 2021. Shibata and others subsequently came up with the idea of producing a feature-length version of the flick, as they were keen to tell audiences more about the village.

In January, the municipal government set up a production committee led by the village’s deputy mayor, Hitoshi Ito. The nine-member committee includes people from the municipal government, the high school and the local shopping district.

Full-fledged filming started in April, and screenings of the work are planned to be held at movie theaters and other venues in Ninohe and Morioka in the prefecture, as well as in Tokyo.

The committee has used crowdfunding aiming to raise capital for production.

Photos on a crowdfunding website show the rich natural environment of Kunohe, Iwate Prefecture.