"The film doesn’t harp too long on the disaster though. We are thrown into the world of these everyday people and witness how they try to deal with aftermath and the recovery. It shows that as long as there is hope, people will persevere and work hard for what they want."
Jose Luis Solorzano, Harbor Tides
"What does your hometown mean to you? That opening question will linger in the minds of every New Yorker who sees this heartbreaking and inspiring documentary, about the impact of last year’s earthquake and tsunami on the coastal city of Ishinomaki, Japan.
"Director Stuart Levy chronicles the extreme devastation by focusing on survival. The film is divided into four chapters, representing different components of the tragedy: school, shelter, families and volunteers. Every misfortune he records is balanced by some extraordinary act of generosity or hope. And while each story has its own unforgettable moments, all share the same, remarkable thread: resilient citizens determined to turn their devastated town back into a home."
Elizabeth Weitzman, NY Daily News
"Filmed over a period of six weeks and supplemented with animated music sequences and chilling news footage of the terrifying deluge, Pray For Japan is both an elegy and a love letter....(The) film firmly arches toward hope—in a voiceover written by poet Ryoichi Wago and read by actress Kyoka Suzuki, and in showing the generosity of volunteers from around the world. Hope is especially present in a drumming ceremony in memory of the dead, which provides a catharsis for the people on-screen and for the viewer taking it all in."
Ernest Hardy, Village Voice
"The opening moments of the film show footage during the earthquake and resulting tsunami, and it’s frightening. One can only imagine the fear that would be coursing through you as the waves begin crashing against the shore and the water begins to rise. As quickly as it began, it’s over, leaving nothing behind. It’s here that the film moves into the four different perspectives, beginning with shelter. We start to hear the stories of various people living in the shelters. For the first few days, there was no food or water. There wasn’t even a way for rescue workers to reach survivors. Now we begin to understand the kind of courage it takes to truly survive such a disaster."
William Brownridge, Toronto Film Scene
"Pray For Japan will take you on a journey to discover the people who survived this incredible ordeal. You’ll hear it directly from the horse’s mouth, no questions about it. From inspiring testimonies to heart-breaking stories, Pray For Japan‘s four sections (Family, School, Shelter and Volunteers) will allow you to piece together the events of those fateful days.....****1/2"
"In alternating segments, Levy focuses Pray on four groups dealing with the quake-tsunami’s impact: school, family, shelter, and volunteers. Each features inspirational and heartbreaking stories, but the rebirth of Ogatsu Middle School is truly emblematic of the courageous rebuilding process. What viewers do not hear is any finger pointing or complaining....Highly recommended...."
Joe Bendel, J.B. Spins
"Overall, Pray for Japan is a wonderful film that inspires and provides hope. To see how people who have suffered the worst can still move forward and together overcome tragedy. The film captures the positive spirit of humanity and people of different cultures coming together and providing hope.
"It’s important to emphasize that this is not a film about the destruction that occurred, Pray for Japan is about moving forward from tragedy. It’s about the people who lost their homes, their jobs and those who lost family members and their friends but yet are determined to rebuild, to keep living and doing all they can to bring normalcy into their lives once again....****1/2"
Dennis A. Amint, J!-ENT Online
“The in-depth, on-the-scene reporting in Pray for Japan is by turns enlightening, moving and inspiring. A Tohoku disaster volunteer himself, Levy finds wonderful, exceptional people among the victims and volunteers and tells their stories with insight and compassion.”
Mark Schilling, Variety Japan
"Manga and anime seem to have considerably shaped Levy's worldview...Sorrow and resilience are the common bond of the major characters."
Mark Jenkins, NPR
"Generally sketching the tragedy, people’s suffering, and efforts to recovery, the film is divided into topics like “family” and “volunteers” to tell individual’s stories. These vignettes are segmented using artwork and poetry as intermezzo. The film is heartfelt and it’s impossible not to have empathy for the survivors or feel a sense of pride in humanity for the selfless work of the volunteers."
Rob Schwartz, Metropolis
"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...."
Justin Chang, Variety
"Pray for Japan" recaps the fateful details with amazing footage and interviews. (The film is largely in Japanese with English subtitles.) The tsunami is only a prologue, however, with the film predominantly focused on what happened in the following weeks as people fought to survive and somehow return to a sense of normalcy."