2016, James Payne, Documentary
Amid the ashes of post-WWII Japan, the bittersweet sounds of American traditional country music drifted through the radio airwaves. Although intended for the U.S. occupying forces, a vast ‘ghost audience’ of young Japanese quickly warmed to the soothing, yet foreign, sounds. Since falling in love with the music in the 1950’s, Charlie Nagatani has lived to play and spread country music throughout Japan. From his hometown of Kumamoto in southern Japan, Charlie operates a family-run honky-tonk named Good Time Charlie’s and is the promoter of the largest country music festival in Japan, Country Gold. Masuo Sasabe’s band The Blueside of Lonesome is one of Japan’s most renowned bluegrass bands. Sasabe was in the first wave of Japanese musicians to travel to America seeking the source of bluegrass music in the early 1970’s. Through these modern-day portraits, Far Western illuminates this lost chapter of music as the musicians’ journey from Japan to the heart of American music culture. Over seventy years later this American music tradition has been transformed into something distinctly Japanese.
By Hunter Lanier
“Aside from the movie’s human interest element, you get a strong sense of music’s indiscriminate magic.”
Asian Movie Pulse
By Panos Kotzathanasis
“The numerous live performances in various venues, both in the US and in Japan, are the main source of entertainment for the documentary, with Matt Leach’s editing placing those scenes in key moments, that help the flow of the narrative significantly, in an overall quite convincing work. The juxtaposition of footage with interviews also works quite well, with James Payne allowing his “subjects” to shine through their words, while David McMurry’s camera allows the same to happen to their overall appearance, with the images of Japanese wearing cowboy boots and hats being as unusual as it is intriguing.”
By Allison Hussey
“Far Western is refreshing in its examination of wholehearted cultural appreciation there’s not a hint of irony or cool indifference anywhere in its eighty-three minutes. It’s heartwarming without any schmaltz, and it makes for a rewarding romp.”
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