'Pray for Japan'

It's hard not to be moved by the words of love, gratitude and resilience spoken by earthquake/tsunami survivors and volunteers in "Pray for Japan."

It’s hard not to be moved by the words of love, gratitude and resilience spoken by earthquake/tsunami survivors and volunteers in “Pray for Japan.” But well-meaning platitudes go only so far in this sincerely felt, raggedly structured compilation of footage shot by producer-director Stu Levy while he was aiding victims in the devastated coastal city of Ishinomaki. Released March 16 in Los Angeles and New York, with proceeds benefiting relief org Jen, the self-distribbed pic accordingly plays like a collective thank-you to the rescue effort, limiting its appeal for those hoping to learn something more about the disaster and its aftermath.

One of numerous docus that have appeared in time to commemorate the tragedy’s one-year anniversary, the pic focuses primarily on relief work at Ishinomaki’s Minato-sho Shelter and efforts to relocate students and faculty from a devastated middle school. Even when training his camera on teenager Kento Ito, who lost his grandparents, mother and younger brother, Levy seeks to excavate hope from the rubble, a noble impulse ill served by his interviewees’ repetitive expressions of solidarity, backed by a treacly, ever-present score. Tech assembly is fine.

Pray for Japan

Japan

Production

A Pray for Japan Film production in association with Artland, Q-Tec, Studio Deen. Produced by Stu Levy. Executive producers, Toru Kajio, Ray Klein, Levy, Kazunori Noguchi. Directed by Stu Levy.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Levy; editors, Emiko Kagawa, Susumu Kimura, Noriko Miyakawa, Nobuo Mita; music, Shinya Mizoguchi. Reviewed on DVD, Pasadena, March 18, 2012. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Yoshiaki Shouji, Najeeb Ullah Ayaz, Keisuke Takahashi, Junichi Sato, Tomiko Okazaki, Chieko Seto, Kento Ito, Shu Chiba, Hideo Otuki, Manabu Endo, Shuki Ito, Hiroshi Kameyama, Masayuki Satou, Hiroyuke Abe, Kuniaki Shimizu, Takashi Nomura, Manabu Endo, Atsushi Yamashita, Anees Ahmad Nadeem, Kenji Watanabe, Yasunori Sugahara, Seiji Yoshimura, Takato Suzuki, Daisuke Makino, Masumi Kaneda, Kazuko Sato, Hiroko Kudou, Hiromitu Itou. (Japanese, English dialogue)
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