Less known than heroics of Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler, Japanese ambassador Chiune Sugihara’s 1940 rescue of several thousand Lithuanian Jews from Nazi forces receives an honorific treatment in Robert Kirk’s docu, “Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness.” Lacking stylish touches and surprising moments that would ratchet work to top nonfiction cinema tier, portrait is a fine valedictory describing how a humble Nippon civil servant decided to shred red tape to save others. Pic will draw reliable aud for Holocaust-themed works, with crossover to Asian viewers perhaps unaware of Japanese national hero.
Kirk’s storytelling works in flashback, reporting on the postwar discovery of Japanese government’s mysterious “Jewish Problems Files,” revealing how Sugihara literally rubber-stamped visas for Jews fleeing Europe. Raised by strict samurai code of Bushido, Sugihara nonetheless rebelled against his parents and studied English literature, launching a cosmopolitan career that led to various diplomatic posts. While job required spying for a government allying with Hitler, Sugihara’s growing awareness of noose forming around collective Jewish throats led to a marathon session approving visas, against strict Japanese regulations. Hero’s sad later years leave saga on bittersweet note.