Kenji Sekine might have ended up as a wine importer at a supermarket chain in Tokyo had it not been for a chance encounter with a Palestinian boy during a trip to the Middle East in early 1999.

Sekine, 39, is the founder and president of the Fukuoka-based film distribution company United People, which has introduced independent films that address social, political and environmental issues.

The Kanagawa Prefecture native says everything started during that solo trip to the strife-ridden region he took after studying in a U.S. college.