The American military bases in Okinawa are often in the news, usually because of an accident, protest or crime. The bases elsewhere in Japan, not so much. These reminders of a postwar occupation now seven decades in the past have mostly faded from the public imagination.
Daisuke Miyazaki's true-to-life drama "Yamato(California)" shows, however, that the bases still loom large to those who live near them, including his sullen heroine Sakura (Hanae Kan), a high school dropout and aspiring rapper.
Completed in 2016 and screened at festivals here and abroad, including the 2017 Osaka Asian Film Festival where I first saw it, "Yamato(California)" has a lived-in realism — it's set in Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture, near the Atsugi naval air base, and replicates the deafening aircraft noise the locals in the film have become inured to. At the same time, it is not a docudrama about the problems the base has caused. The film instead focuses more on the personal, with welcome touches of humor, strongly realized characters and none of the stereotyping endemic to local "international" films.