Pray for Japan is a charitable passion project directed and produced by STU LEVY.
“I landed at Narita Airport on March 9, 2011, returning to my home in Tokyo that night. Two days later, my house rocked like a tiny boat in a storm as the 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Northeast Japan. But that was nothing compared to what I proceeded to witness on Japanese television – the complete destruction of Tohoku’s gorgeous coastline by the cold, dark waters of a mammoth tsunami.
“I had been there before – spent a few nights at a local fisherman’s B&B on the tiny island of Oshima in Kessenuma’s harbor, enjoyed the bitter salt-water taste of fresh Hoya out of its shell in Matsushima, walked the quaint streets of Ishinomaki’s old town shops. I had even boasted to Japanese friends that I had found Japan’s most beautiful region.
“All that was no more. I was shocked, glued to the television set. What had happened to that B&B? To those adorable shops? To these gentle people??
“Almost panic-stricken, I contacted various friends, searching for a way up north, to volunteer, to help out any way I could. Almost by miracle, I found the path – a non-profit organization (NPO) named JEN needed a volunteer to deliver emergency provisions into the devastated zone. I jumped at the chance, and on March 15, 2011, a stalwart volunteer Shida-san and I packed gasoline, water, kerosene, and rice into his truck. It was snowing when we arrived at the shelter. All the men lined up to help carry our provisions. As I handed the large bags of rice to the men, a frail grandfather stepped up. I told him this is very heavy but he said I can do it! When I handed him the rice, he proudly carried it on his shoulder like the rest of the men.
“This tenacity, the resilient spirit, the teamwork, the self-sacrifice: it is that Japanese spirit which inspired me to make this film. 6 weeks later, after long days of swapping my camera for soup kitchen ladles and heavy boxes, then back to the camera again, I somehow shot 40 hours of amazing footage while volunteering. A few months later, working with incredibly talented professionals who volunteered for this cause, we have a film.
“It’s not a news program. It’s not an anti-nuclear piece. It’s the story of people pulling together to save their homes and their lives, in the face of great loss. It’s the story of unknown heroes.”
Stu Levy is an international entrepreneur, producer, director and writer across media including graphic novels, film, television and new media. Founder of the pioneering media company TOKYOPOP, Levy is known for being one of the people who introduced the English-speaking world to manga, the uniquely Japanese form of comics. Levy has directed two feature films, PRAY FOR JAPAN, and also his award-winning debut VAN VON HUNTER, a satirical take on sword-and-sorcery fantasy and horror. With TOKYOPOP, he also produced and directed the 8-webisode reality series America’s Greatest Otaku. His first major studio feature film as Executive Producer was PRIEST, released theatrically worldwide in 2011 through Sony Pictures. As a producer, Levy has a number of live-action and animated feature films and television shows in various stages of development, including adaptations of his graphic novels Princess Ai and Juror 13. Fluent in Japanese, Levy also serves as chair of the Producers Guild of America’s International Committee and was previously a Board Member of its New Media Council. Levy’s website is here.