“Strains of Odyssey,” a new Japanese film that highlights the talents of musicians with autism, is scheduled for its U.S. premiere 4 p.m. Saturday at the Community School of Music and Arts, 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View.
The screening comes through the efforts of Nobuko Saito Cleary of Los Altos Hills, a longtime CSMA supporter and advocate for acquainting Americans with Japanese culture. Saturday’s showing includes a lecture by the former first lady of Japan, Madame Kayoko Hosokawa.
Directed by Oguri Ken’ichi, “Strains of Odyssey” tells the story of Japanese conductor Kobayashi Ken-ichiro, who in 2010 brought together 31 autistic and disabled musicians to perform a concert. Although some of the musicians could not speak or hear, they proved talented with a violin in hand. The film also deals with the conductor’s anguish over news that his hometown in northern Japan was destroyed in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“It’s a very touching, heartwarming story,” Saito Cleary said last week.
She said Japanese families and society in general often shun disabled people.
“There’s shame to be different,” she noted.
Kobayashi arranged the concert to prove that the musicians could perform at a high level despite their challenges. Six months of rehearsals culminated in a performance by what he termed “the most unique orchestra in the world.”
Nine members of the “Believe Crew,” all with intellectual disabilities, who had first come together to film the 2005 Nagano Special Olympics World Winter Games, filmed the proceedings.
The film includes the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Kobayashi’s hometown, Iwaki, Fukushima, and the surviving Special Olympics athletes, who overcame their grief to compete in the summer games in Athens. It also depicts the conductor holding a special class for students of Toyoma Middle School. Improvising at the piano for students who had lost their instruments – and their school – in the quake, Kobayashi recalled his own experience surviving the firebombs of World War II.
Local sponsors of the event include Gary and Nobuko Saito Cleary, Union Bank, Becky and Jim Morgan, Hiro and Betty Ogawa and the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation.
Tickets are $30. Proceeds benefit earthquake relief efforts.