J, Robot takes a look at the unique cultural and social forces that drive the Japanese obsession to embrace humanoid robots.
In January of 1995, the port city of Kobe, Japan was ravaged by a powerful earthquake and resulting fire which left over 6000 people dead and many more thousands injured. Over the last sixteen years the city has recovered.
Now, a heroic figure rises up out of a newly rebuilt city neighborhood: Tetsujin-28, an 18-meter metal robot sculpture. This is a life-size replica of a beloved anime character created in 1963. (known as Gigantor in the U.S.)
In Japan, Kobe citizens are not alone in their love for robots, both real and imagined. Many Japanese have a special fondness for mechanical humanoids.
Government, academic and scientific institutions, along with industry leaders are investing time and money in developing the technology to create a humanoid robot workforce. This extraordinary development is fueled by more than the simple motivation of an aging population and the lack of younger workers.
“J, Robot” explores Japan’s unique cultural attitudes, artistic sensibilities and technological differences that might make their robotic leap possible.
Making this film. I've always been intrigued by the clips of Japanese robots I've seen in the media, like The Daily Show. I wondered, "why are the Japanese so crazy about robots?" I went to Japan to ask that question of robot engineers, designers, historians and people on the street.
A couple years later, I've got a film that helps to answer that question and would like to share it with audiences everywhere. But I need funds to pay for archival footage, graphics, and post-production processing and duplication to prep the film for submission to film festivals and potential distributors.
My excellent co-producer Yasuhide Mitsuma, based in Tokyo, was instrumental in setting up the interviews. Robert Wakamatsu, here in San Francisco, did a great job in preparing and assisting in editing the footage (he was also co-editor for the trailer). I also had a host of talented translators including Sheena Simpson, Hiromi Kemper and Andrew Driver for interview transcriptions and subtitles. Anu Kirk composed musical stingers and transitions specifically for "J, Robot".
In addition to the interviews, we've got great behind-the-scene footage of the construction of the only permanent giant robot in Japan, the Tetsujin-28; and of course cool footage of Gundam, the other giant robot which towered over Tokyo Bay for a couple of months.
This has been a self-funded project with a couple timely gifts to keep me going. With your help I'll have the resources to get this film out the door and in front of the eyeballs that will enjoy it.
"J, Robot is a sponsored project of the International Documentary Association.
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