Perspectives are a tricky thing leading up to the production of One Thousand Paper Cranes.

One of the most enduring historical stories is that of Sadako Sasaki, the young girl who developed leukemia as a result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and folded over 1,000 origami paper cranes in the hopes that it would grant her wish of staying alive.

▼ Monuments to Sadako can be found all over the world, including this one in Hiroshima

Globally, Sadako is probably the most famous victim of nuclear weapons, and many people in western countries may have gotten acquainted with this story through the children’s novel Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, written by Canadian-American author Eleanor Coerr in 1977.

Now, it’s been reported that Hollywood is set to produce One Thousand Paper Cranes, which follows the story of Coerr, played by Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld, True Blood), and how she came to make the book.

Soon after, however, a strong reaction broke out over social media, with English-language comments such as:

“Great. Detracting from the story to make it about a white woman who wrote about it. Now she becomes the center of the story and the actual main character gets pushed aside.”
“I guess it will be about the heroic white person who wrote the book.”
“So they’re shifting the focus from Sadako Sasaki to the white journalist? Typical Hollywood…”
“Stop casting white women for WOC roles we don’t want it.”
“Love this story, won’t see it without representation.”
“I saw this movie when it was called The Last Samurai. Hard pass. Thank you. Next.”
“THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! ERW ISN’T EVEN CANADIAN! BURN ALL THE MOVIES!”
“‘Lets make the genocide of 140,000 people and the horrific suffering from the fallout into a story about white people.’ is the whitest thing ever.”
“More white savior garbage. No thanks.”
“I thought Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr had been on the school reading curriculum a few years ago. That’s why the story resonates with Americans.”
“Well, this is disappointing. But so typical. They can’t just create a film about Sasaki. No, they need to have a white person in there to shape it and make it ‘relatable.'”

Part of the reason for some of the outrage is something I’m guilty of too. The headline to the article everyone is reacting to read “Evan Rachel Wood Tapped to Star in Hiroshima Drama ‘One Thousand Paper Cranes’” which is clearly an oversimplification of the real situation, but much more economical that writing “Evan Rachel Wood Tapped to Star in Drama About the Woman Who Wrote the Popular Book About a Victim of the Hiroshima Bombing ‘One Thousand Paper Cranes.’

But it was also confusing to the point that some people actually thought Wood was going to play the part of Sadako herself. It was enough to cause the film’s director Richard Raymond to issue a statement clarifying how the film is going to be presented.

It still seems like a rather roundabout way to tell the story of Sadako, but it could work, especially if they delve into why Coerr changed the ending to the story from what really happened. Also, Raymond got the approval of the Peace Crane Project and the twitter account of Sadako Sasaki, though I’m skeptical its really her since it’s not verified.

But more importantly let’s see what the regular people of Japan are saying online.

“I don’t really know enough about it to judge either way.”
“The movie is about the writer who helped teach people about Sadako. What’s the problem with this?”
“Actually, I would kind of be interested in seeing a movie about Hiroshima where everyone in the city was white instead of Japanese.”
“I would like to see Sadako (Evan Rachel Wood) vs Sadako (The Ring). FIGHT!”
“The writer was white, so I don’t see a problem. The stories of writers and journalists who show everyone the miseries of war are also important.”
“Why don’t they make a movie about the American soldiers who were victims of the bomb. Many American’s don’t even know about them.”
“I’m more bothered by the fact that they’re profiting off the story.”
“I still don’t know how Americans think they can keep getting away with making Godzilla movies.”
“All the Japanese parts are played by Koreans in Hollywood anyway.”
“If it helps more people in America learn about the story, then fine.”
“There seems to be a trend developing.”

That last comment is a reference to the production of Minamata which was announced late last year and is currently underway. In it Johnny Depp plays W. Eugene Smith, the American photojournalist who helped bring the world’s attention to the disfiguring effects of factory-induced mercury poisoning in the city of Minamata in Kumamoto Prefecture during the early 1970s.

Despite nearly the exact same situation as One Thousand Paper Cranes and Wood, and with arguably even more of a “white savior” premise, Minamata and Depp strangely didn’t seem to receive nearly the same blowback from the public in the west.

▼ I know it looks like I’m setting these tweets up to prove a point, but I swear I couldn’t find a single even slight criticism of Depp as the “savior” of Minamata. There were some positive tweets about Wood to be found though.

The indifferent to positive response to both films in Japan is no surprise, however. Here in Japan people tend to not be bothered as much by such things, to the point that The Last Samurai, with its lead character an alcoholic white guy of dubious height, is actually quite well received.

“I saw The Last Samurai. I was so engrossed in the battle scene that I forgot to breathe. It’s a nice day today. I’m in a good mood.”

In the end, probably the most important sentiment is that if the movie helps to spread the important message of the lingering horrors of war then it can’t all be bad. Still, there is definitely something to be said for encouraging more films that offer more diverse perspectives as well, doing so can help to foster empathy and maybe even prevent future atrocities from occurring.

So, rather than attacking movies that we’re not even sure of yet, if we as a whole make a conscious, positive effort to support movies viewed from other perspectives with our money, the producers will listen and the tide will eventually turn.

And knowing Hollywood, when this truly wonderful and richly diverse cinematic landscape is achieved, they’ll want to make a movie about the white guy who suggested it…me! I think I’ll demand that the Ant Man guy plays my part.

Source: The Wrap, Variety, Yurukuyaru, Twitter/@TheWrap, Twitter/@richieraymond
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Wikipedia/Children’s Peace Monument
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