Japanese directors have made films in many different settings, but it's safe to say Takeshi Fukunaga is the first of his countrymen to direct a narrative feature set partly in Liberia, a small African country not too long ago embroiled in a bloody civil war. In fact, "Out of My Hand" is only the second such feature period to be shot by a foreign filmmaker in the country.

Premiered at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival, the movie is a rarity for not only its director and setting, but its informed, incisive examination of Liberian life and the immigrant experience in today's America.

In contrast to the many Japanese films set abroad that use the locals as exotic color for the dramas of their Japanese principals, "Out of My Hand" is almost totally centered on its Liberian characters. Even more atypically, Fukunaga uses his outsider's perspective to closely observe his subjects and their milieu minus cultural filters or political blinders. He sympathizes but doesn't pity, comments but doesn't condescend. He has filmed humanly flawed individuals, not representative types, noble or otherwise.