07/28/2014, 00.00
TAIWAN

Filming begins’ on Martin Scorsese epic on Christian mission in Japan

Xin Yage
The film, in preparation for years, tells the story of a Portuguese Jesuit missionary who became an apostate and collaborated in the persecution of Christians. Lay and religious experts involved, especially the Jesuits. The impact on the Japanese Church. Actors include Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield ("Spiderman").

Taipei (AsiaNews) - As of September, renowned director Martin Scorsese will be in Taiwan to begin work on his next film on Christian mission in Japan during the seventeenth century. The film, already in the program for several years, is based on a bestselling novel by a Catholic Japanese author.

"Silence" was written by Japanese Shusako Endo (1923-1996) in 1966. It is based on the story of Tome Ferreira (1580-1650), a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, provincial of the mission of Japan, who  renounced the Christian faith under torture in order to save the group of Christians arrested with him. His apostasy, however, had dire consequences when he was forced to cooperate in denouncing other Christians on Japanese territory.

Many secular and religious experts are involved in Scorsese's epic. From US jesuit James Martin, of the magazine 'America' to Renzo de Luca - an Argentine Jesuit who has spent decades in Japan and is director of the Museum of the 26 martyrs of Nagasaki.  De Lucia has already met the director and had many length discussions with him about the project. Others involved include professors of Japanese culture and history from different universities in Taiwan and Japanese experts who have already prepared detailed historical presentations, for the director's team, on the Japan of the seventeenth century.

One of the catalysts in realizing this endeavor was the Kuangchi Program Advisory Service in Taipei (光启 社), the film and television production company belonging to the Society of Jesus, especially thanks to Father Jerry Martinson (丁松筠 神父), a US native like Scorsese, but in Asia for nearly 50 years where he is universally known for his expertise in TV production. Fr. Jerry's vast network of contacts has greatly facilitated production.

Fr. Antoni Üçerler - Jesuit professor of Japanese history at Sophia University in Tokyo and the University of San Francisco in California - has been called in by Scorsese as a consultant to the historical aspects of the context on the Japanese society and the mission of the Society of Jesus during the period of the great persecution.

He says that "pre-production on the film turned out to be quite  a lengthy process - at least eight or ten years - several contracts with very different actors were put forward". Fr. Üçerler has already had several meetings with the pre-production team as well as with Benicio del Toro, part of the cast at that time. Because of the slowness in pre-production and constant delays, the original cast later withdrew, and other prominent actors like Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield (the young protagonist of the last series spider-Man made ​​by Sony Columbia) came onboard.

"My concern - Fr. Üçerler continues - is how the entire project will affect the Japanese Church: What kind of movie will it be in the end? It has to really immerse itself in Japanese culture, down to the tiniest detail and scenic arts: the Japanese are attentive to the tiniest details in their soap operas set in that time, we hope that this production will live up to the Scorsese reputation".

"But the most important thing - he concludes - is to penetrate into the core of the drama and the message therein. Both the real-life story, and the novel (which are, however, different) are something that require the greatest attention not only from us Jesuits, but every Christian. It goes deep into this drama of apostasy, and then from the tragedy of resulting from persecution, the realization of the fact that God is still greater than any treachery".

 

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