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Far Western is a music-fueled, character-driven documentary film about Japan’s history and obsession with American country music. Read more

Tulsa, OK Documentary
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This project was successfully funded on September 17.

Far Western is a music-fueled, character-driven documentary film about Japan’s history and obsession with American country music.

Tulsa, OK Documentary
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About this project

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UPDATE: We've added a great new incentive as well as new videos of our characters below.

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「Far Western」は、アメリカのカントリー音楽が日本に渡った20世紀半ば頃を描いたドキュメンタリーです。本作では、音楽と歴史にまつわる日本とアメリ カの文化接点の1つが描かれており、この映画が日米両国で公開されることを願っています。上映実現のためにも、是非とも日本の皆様のお力添えを賜りたく、 お願い申し上げます。

Kickstarter は、映画製作等の資金を集めるサービスで、アメリカでは既に音楽や映画などに利用されています。1ドルから出資することができ、その出資額に応じ て様々な特典が得られます。例えば、「Far Western」に25ドル出資していただくと、映画のデジタルダウンロード件が得られます。Kickstarterのシステムは確立されており、安全で す。出資したプロジェクトが目標資金額に達しなかった場合、出資は全てキャンセルされ、送金は一切されません。 この「Far Western」の資金調達期限まで、残すところ後7日となりました。ドキュメンタリーの上映実現に向けて、どうぞご協力お願い致します。

About the Documentary

Far Western is a feature documentary film that tells the phenomenal story of the transplant of American country music to post-World War II Japan.  Nearly 70 years later, for a devoted group the music has become a lifelong obsession.  Part music history and part character portrait, Far Western is told through the lives of musicians, fans, and live-music venue owners. Set both in modern Japan and the American South, the film explores the uncanny ability of a simple form of music to cross geographic and language barriers, forming a strange cultural bridge between the two countries. Now, these Japanese musicians have made their own pilgrimages back to America, to the birthplace of the music, playing in honky-tonks and festivals in America.

Our Connection

In 2007 I was working in Japan producing a ten-city tour, live-concert film for an American bluegrass band.  The tour was planned through the U.S. Embassy Office of Cultural Affairs which had arranged for us to meet a Japanese musician named Masuo Sasabe, an excellent guitar player and singer.  He introduced me to Juta Sagai, who introduced us to the legendary Ozaki Brothers and it continued to spread out from there.  They took us to the Rockytop, a tiny honky-tonk in the famous Ginza District of Tokyo.  The walls were layered with decades of photos, concert posters and Western kitsch. 

The musicians were excellent and their knowledge of western music history was amazing.  We found the Nashville Club, then the Lonestar Club, and then Petticoat Lane—where an older Japanese man told me through a translator that he’d instructed his wife to bury him in his cowboy boots.   Then I knew we needed to get back to Japan and make this film!  Our first trip we filmed a week in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, and on the second trip we visited Charlie Nagatani at his International Country Gold Festival in Kumamoto.  Through these trips we’ve met a great community that has kindly helped us tell this story.

Our Financial Goal

The production of the film began in 2009 with two trips to Japan in successive years and continued filming with Japanese musicians on trips in the U.S. The film has been funded through individual tax-deductible donations to date. 

We want to return to Japan this fall to film in Tokyo, the Tajimi Mountain Time Bluegrass Festival, the International Country Gold Festival and Kanazawa, Japan. 

Where will the money go?

Funding from this Kickstarter campaign will complete the filming of Far Western including all transportation, lodging, crew salaries, production insurance, and equipment rentals. 

What happens if we don't reach the goal?

If we don't reach the full amount in the 30 days, then Kickstarter returns all pledged money to the backers. 

Tax Deductions

For those who choose to opt-out of a reward, any support at the $200 mark and above can be made TAX DEDUCTIBLE with the help of our fiscal sponsor, deadCENTER Film Festival, LLC.

Rewards

Minimalist Western Style Clutch Bag / Chic iPad Leather Bag. This is handmade by Oklahoma craftswoman Taylor West of Mies Leather.

  Far Western Belt Buckle hand made by leather craftsmen Ric Harber from Tulsa, OK.

 Far Western Wallet hand made by leather craftsmen Ric Harber from Tulsa, OK.

The Characters

Charlie Nagatani - Owner of a country and western honky-tonk in Kumomoto, Japan.  He’s 80 years old and he and his house band, ‘The Canonballs’ play over 300 shows a year!  He’s the creator of the International Country Gold Festival which has run for 25 years hosting American entertainers such as Bill Monroe, Emmylou Harris, Dwight Yoakam, Porter Wagner and The Dixie Chicks.  Charlie is Japan’s ambassador of country music. He’s been a guest at the White House and played the Grand Old Opry nearly 20 times. 

 The Ozaki Bros.

Hisashi and Yasushi Ozaki are credited for forming the first bluegrass band in Japan.  The were the first Japanese to be inducted to the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame.  Their story links us to World War II, where they first learned traditional American songs illegally, despite the Japanese ban on American cultural media.

 Masuo Sasabe and Blueside of Lonesome

Sasabe’s father was a master of a traditional Japanese style of folk music.  At 15 years of age he heard traditional American music.  He was struck by a similarity and figured folk music from around the world must be the same.  Since 1974, he’s journeyed back to the source in America yearly to play bluegrass festivals and honky-tonks.  His band Blueside of Lonesome, with an all-star lineup, is now one of the most popular traditional Americana acts in Japan.

 Juta Sagai

Sagai is a devotee of Jimmie Rodgers and Woody Guthrie and a key figure in Japan’s bluegrass history.  His band The Briars, are a popular act in the festival and live venue circuit in Japan.  The Briars features a phenomenal 23-year-old female banjo player!

Miya and Shintaro Ishida

Shintaro Ishida was a legendary country & western steel player in some of Japan’s most influential country & western bands.  Like Charlie Nagatani and the Ozaki Brothers he learned to play in American military bases and from the Far East Network radio broadcasts. His daughter Miya has continued the tradition as the next generation while balancing motherhood and her dream of being a country music entertainer.

 Kazuhiro Inaba

Like Sagai and Sasabe, Inaba is a second generation Baby Boomer.  His father loved Hank Sr. and true to his roots he plays a combination of hillbilly, western swing and bluegrass.  He plays a packed scheduled both in Japan and the States and runs a music school that teaches traditional American instruments.  In the 70’s Inaba began making trips to America to experience the music in it’s birthplace.

 Toru Mitsui - Mitsui is the foremost musicologist on American country music in Japan. As a young man his music world was forever changed by the release of Harry Smith’s classic: Anthology of American Folk Music. He became fascinated with the early British and Irish folk ballads. In 1967 he wrote what some have called the first study of bluegrass, Burugurasu Ongaku (Bluegrass Music), and his 1971 Kantori Ongaku no Rekishi (A History of Country Music) became the key reference to the early history. In the late 80’s he went on a quest to America to find the origin and author of what George Jones called the most perfect song every written, “You Are My Sunshine." Mitsui has released a double album of songs recorded in his youth during the early-to-mid 60’s that includes tracks from traditional Scottish ballads to Woody Guthrie to Leadbelly.

The Team

Collectively the producing team has produced documentaries for PBS Independent Lens, HBO, Sundance Channel, National Geographic and the History Channel.

James Payne (Director/Producer) From stories about Americana, to music, to the environment, a weird and wonderful array of documentary films. It began with the cult classic Okie Noodling about fishing for monster catfish with nothing but bare hands (PBS, Discovery Europe).  Payne co-directed The Creek Runs Red, a sweetly dytopian story of a toxic American town (PBS- Independent Lens).  Payne then produced Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo set within the walls of Oklahoma’s oldest maximum-security prison (HBO Documentary Films). His films have been accepted to major festivals including SXSW, Toronto, Los Angeles, Hot Docs, Rotterdam, Berlin, and Sheffeld.   Other documentaries include The Flaming Lips, U.F.O.s at the Zoo (Warner Bros.) Winnebago Man (Kino International) and Currents of Belize (Costa Films) and Mad Adore (post-production).  His T.V. producing credits include Mudcats (History Channel), Shipping Wars (A&E) and Ultimate Survival Alaska (National Geographic).  

David McMurry (Cinematographer) is based in Marin County, California.  His documentary subjects range from rock 'n roll heroes to hummingbirds, and he thinks some of the most interesting stories are found in the hinterlands of the country, where he spent his childhood being raised on an elixir of god, guns and football.  David has been a long-time collaborator with Payne on a number of documentary films, including The Flaming Lips, U.F.O.'s at the Zoo (Warner Bros.), Okie Noodling II (American Public Television), and Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo (HBO Documentary Films).  His television work has been seen on MTV and PBS, and his commercial clients include VISA, Samsung, Peet's Coffee, and Nike.  His first film, Atomic City, is currently in post-production.

Matt Leach (Producer) is a producer/director/editor who has spent the past decade sharing the strange and wonderful stories of Oklahoma.  His early claim to fame was directing the music video Midnight Vignette, voted one of the top-ten indie videos of 2008 by MTV.  He transitioned into commercial editing, working on high profile political campaigns and national commercials and XBOX titles.  His work in documentary began co-directing and co-producing This Land a thought provoking and delicately crafted television series on life in Middle America with pieces featured on PBS.  He produced and edited his first feature film This May Be The Last Time (AMC / Sundance International) that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2014 and screened at MoMA. 

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT.

Risks and challenges

We have limited time with the older musicians who are the last people to connect us directly to the beginning of this story. Therefore we have to seize the opportunity now. The major challenge in this story has always been the cost to travel a crew to the opposite side of the world as well as the language barrier to a lesser degree. This necessitates that we plan and produce our trip well. We have a skilled producing team and we’ll use these funds to maximize our time on this next and final trip.

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Rewards

  • You selected
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    10 backers

    HD Screensaver from the inside of a Tokyo Honky Tonk.

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    11 backers

    HD Screensaver from the inside of a Tokyo honky-tonk and an exclusive live audio recording from a Japanese country band recorded during film production.

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    18 backers

    'Best of' collection of Live audio recording from Japanese honky-tonks and festivals recorded during film production.

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    71 backers

    A digital download of the Far Western film.

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    51 backers

    A digital download of the Far Western film and the Digital Extra Features Package including still photos, deleted scenes, live audio recordings and behind-the-scenes and making-of content.

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    Pledge $50 or more

    28 backers

    A digital copy of the Far Western film, a high resolution digital copy of the Far Western film poster, Digital Extra Features Package.

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    Pledge $75 or more

    7 backers Limited (93 left of 100)

    Personalized audio recording thank you message and a solo music recording from a Far Western musician. A digital download of the Far Western film and the Digital Extra Features Package.

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    36 backers Limited (64 left of 100)

    The Far Western DVD, the Digital Extra Features with rare Live recordings & Trucker Hat.

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    5 backers Limited (95 left of 100)

    The Far Western DVD, the Concert Kit that includes your koozie, bandana, stylish guitar pick earrings & Trucker Hat.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $150 or more

    9 backers Limited (11 left of 20)

    A DVD Film Collection of Far Western plus a sampling of the filmmakers previous films including Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, This May Be the Last Time and Okie Noodling II. Plus an Okie Noodling T-Shirt!

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  • You selected
    Pledge $200 or more

    5 backers Limited (45 left of 50)

    Far Western film poster signed by director and producers, a Far Western DVD, the Far Western Concert Kit that includes your koozie, bandana, stylish guitar pick earrings & Trucker Hat.

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    Pledge $350 or more

    0 backers Limited (15 left of 15)

    Hand crafted western style clutch bag / iPad leather case. Hand tooled Far Western men's leather and brass belt buckle. Far Western DVD and film poster. The Far Western Concert Kit and a invite to hangout via Google Hangout at a live event in Japan during the production of the film!

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  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    2 backers Limited (8 left of 10)

    A one of a kind handmade Far Western leather men's or women's western-style wallet! A signed 2014 International Country Gold poster from Charlie Nagatani. A Far Western film poster signed by the cast and crew. Far Western DVD and the Concert Kit.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    2 backers Limited (8 left of 10)

    Hand crafted western style clutch bag / iPad leather case. Far Western DVD, poster, Concert Kit and 2 tickets to a film festival screening of your choice - Travel not included. Your name will be listed on a single page short list of donors this high and above with a Special Thanks in the film credits.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $2,000 or more

    0 backers Limited (8 left of 8)

    Your name will be listed in the credits as a member of the film's Producer’s Circle. Hand crafted western style clutch bag / iPad leather case. A hand crafted brass and leather Far Western belt buckle and embossed hand stitched Far Western wallet. The Far Western DVD, poster, Concert Kit and 2 tickets to a film festival screening of your choice - Travel not included.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more

    1 backer Limited (2 left of 3)

    Your name will be listed in the credits as a Co-Executive Producer. We will also arrange a private screening of the film for you in your town where the director will Skype in for Q & A. A hand crafted brass and leather Far Western belt buckle and embossed hand stitched Far Western wallet. 5 copies of the Far Wester DVD, the Live Concert Kit. 2 tickets to a film festival screening of your choice - Travel not included.

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    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (30 days)