In an age fraught with international tensions, a new movie co-produced by Russia and Japan sends a powerful message that love transcends language and borders.

A beautiful yet tragic love story has always been as good a way as any to tug at audiences’ hearts, and it looks like a collaborative creative effort between Russia and Japan has produced just such a movie. The film, titled Sorokin no Mita Sakura (“The Sakura that Sorokin Saw”), is a love story set in the city of Matsuyama in Ehime Prefecture on the Japanese island of Shikoku against the historical backdrop of the Russo-Japanese War.

▼ Trialer for The Sakura that Sorokin Saw

The movie is centered around the romance between a Russian soldier and a Japanese nurse who find themselves on opposing sides of the war (yes, the premise may be a bit clichéd, but we’re sure it still works more than well enough as a tear-jerker), and the film has been described as a “Romeo and Juliet story of the Russo-Japanese War”.

The star-crossed lovers are portrayed by Japanese actress Junko Abe, who plays the nurse Yui, and Russian actor Rodion Galyuchenko, who plays the Russian soldier Sorokin who meets Yui as a POW at a camp in Matsuyama City.

▼ Junko Abe looks beautiful as Yui, who works as a nurse at a POW camp for Russian soldiers.

▼ Rodion Galyuchenko is the Russian soldier Sorokin who is placed in the POW camp and finds himself deeply touched by Yui’s compassionate care.

The story is told as a piece of history uncovered by one of Yui’s modern-day descendants, a young TV director named Sakurako, who is also played by Junko Abe. What makes the movie particularly interesting is its historical setting. The Russo-Japanese War, which took place from 1904 to 1905, came at a time when Japan was trying to turn itself into a “modern” nation, and during the war, Japan made efforts to treat Russian POWs humanely. Nearly 70,000 Russian POWs were reportedly brought to Japan during this time and placed in close to 30 camps across Japan.

The city of Matsuyama, where Yui and Sorokin’s story takes place, is actually where the first of such Russian POW camps was established in Japan, and while the love story is fiction, it is indeed historically true that the prisoners there were treated relatively well. The Russian prisoners received decent food and were allowed a good amount of freedom including taking baths in hot springs or buying alcohol at local stores. They were also provided at times with entertainment such as sumo wrestling and bicycle racing and, in some cases, educational opportunities as well. As a result, there was significant interaction between the Russian prisoners and the local population of Matsuyama, and the city even experienced a small economic boom during the period.

▼ The movie promises some magnificent views of the sakura trees in bloom.

The movie is slated for release in Japan on March 22 (March 16 in Ehime Prefecture, where Matsuyama is located), just in time for the cherry blossom season. With all the unrest and uncertainty in the world today, now feels as good a time as any for a movie portraying good will and love between people from opposing countries.

What’s even more exciting is that a crowdfunding project has been set up to show the movie in Russia as a gesture of friendship between the two countries. The project is currently near its finishing date and is very close to reaching its goal amount of 2,000,000 yen (US$18,300) but fortunately in this case, it’s already been pledged that the film will be screened in Russia regardless of whether the goal amount is reached.

▼ Here’s a tweet announcing the crowdfunding project:

From what we can tell, the movie seems to be an ambitious piece of work that combines dramatic entertainment with a bit of history to send a powerful message that love and compassion can persevere even under the most trying of circumstances. Hopefully the screening in Russia is a success and the movie is well-received, because if a movie can entertain and also generate international good will at the same time, then it’s definitely a winner in our books!

Source: Sorokin no Mita Sakura official website, Mirai Shopping crowdfunding site
Top image: YouTube/HEISEIPROJECT
Insert images: Sorokin no Mita Sakura official website, Mirai Shopping crowdfunding site