Two of Japan's hottest celebrities brought some of their star power to the Vancouver International Film Festival world premiere of the much-anticipated Japan-Canada coproduction The Vancouver Asahi (Bankuba no Asahi).
Prior to the screening, a press conference was held at the Centre for Performing Arts in downtown Vancouver with director Ishii Yuya, actors Tsumabuki Satoshi and Kamenashi Kazuya, and producer Inaba Naoto.
Hordes of fans screamed in the rain outdoors, and it's no wonder.
Tsumabuki Satoshi not only has an extensive list of film and TV credits (not to mention awards), he's also singer and bassist for the band Basking Life.
In The Vancouver Asahi, Tsumabuki plays the central role of Reji "Reggie" Kasahara, a low-key son and labourer in 1930s Vancouver who is reluctantly thrust into the role of leader of the Vancouver Asahi baseball team. The team rose to fame first within the Japanese Canadian community and then won over mainstream Vancouver with their incredible rise to popularity and overcoming racial barriers.
The film tells the story of their successes as well as their numerous struggles on and off the field.
Tsumabuki said in Japanese that when he began working on his character, he didn't have a clear vision of who Reji was. After speaking with director Ishii and friends, and as they were shooting, he began to create the person called Reji who tried to live as fully as possible in the social conditions of the time (where racism was prevalent and often overt).
Since Tsumabuki had never seen Vancouver before and the film was set in a foreign country, he said it was somewhat difficult to play the role. However, he felt that the Asahi Team gave people hope for the future and the inspiration to live at a time when living itself was a hardship.
He expressed admiration for Nikkei (people of Japanese descent) immigrants, saying his impression was that the Japanese people in those days were really, really strong and that their strength came to the fore.
While he acknowledged having only one year of baseball experience prior to the film, his character learns to play baseball as the movie progresses, which paralleled his experience in real life.
His character played short stop, which he found to be a very challenging position. Nonetheless, he practised before and during the shoot with the other cast members in order to improve his performance.
When asked if he has any regrets about choosing his particular profession, he said he enjoys playing different characters and that he learns a great deal from such experiences.
The Vancouver Asahi has certainly proven to be one such example.