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Real heroes faced the Tohoku quake/tsunami tragedy. The battle to rebuild Japan continues - and the world must not forget their story. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on September 4, 2011.

Real heroes faced the Tohoku quake/tsunami tragedy. The battle to rebuild Japan continues - and the world must not forget their story.

Stu Levy
Project by

Stu Levy

First created  |  9 backed

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About this project

Thank you for visiting the Pray for Japan documentary film Kickstarter page!  Together we can not only honor the incredible real-life heroes of the Tohoku Tragedy, but build a movement that assures their efforts will never go forgotten.

I hope the info here is useful for everyone – please feel free to ask questions here or at FACEBOOK - and don’t forget to “like” the page!  Oh, and we're on TWITTER too!

Isn't the Japan earthquake + tsunami old news?

Everyone knows about the tremendous devastation caused by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami tragedy.  You saw it on the news and online.  But just because the media has moved on to the next hot topic, that doesn’t mean the immense challenge facing Japan is now behind them. 

There are still 90,000 people living in shelters, 650,000 people are estimated to have lost their livelihoods, and entire villages and neighborhoods have been destroyed.  There is still tremendous work to be done!

What's the goal of this documentary film project?

Losing loved ones cuts emotional scars which run deep. 

I believe we can help heal these wounds by paying tribute to the amazing resilience and quiet spirit of the many victims and volunteers of Tohoku.  By letting them know  we admire and respect them, we encourage them to continue the good fight – at a time when even the strongest warriors would grow weary.

We also gain insight into how our own inner strength can help us if we ever find ourselves in a life-threatening situation.  I believe we can all learn from these incredible heroes.

What's the documentary film about?

The film itself focuses on Ishinomaki, Miyagi – the largest coastal city in Tohoku with a population of over 160,000 people.  I filmed the tsunami aftermath over a period of 5 weeks, soon after my first couple of trips to Miyagi as a volunteer.  Having experienced the earthquake itself in Tokyo, I exchanged knowing glances with the locals each time we felt an aftershock.  But driving around the devastation caused by the tsunami was an entirely different experience.  It truly felt like a war zone.

I shot over 40 hours of footage with my Canon 5D – just me and one guy on audio (Waki-san for the first 3 weeks until he had to return to Tokyo, then Uji-kun, a local student I met in Ishinomaki).  While we visited many shelters and damaged areas, the film focuses on the efforts of local volunteers and non-profits like Network Miyagi and JEN as they work with the victims of the Minato Shogakkou shelter and Ogatsu Junior High School.  

The film’s theme of vitality and hope is represented visually by the powerful symbol of the koi-nobori, the blue kite-like fish flying in the final shot of our video.  On May 5, kodomo-no-hi (children’s day), 18-year-old Kent Ito led a memorial service for his 5-year-old little brother Ritsu-kun, proudly raising over 200 blue koi-nobori donated from across Japan. 

What will the Kickstarter funds be used for?

Some of the money will go into finishing the post-production – color grading, sound mixing, and animation.  The rest will go into marketing.

The plan is to get this documentary film in front of as many people worldwide as possible.  To do this, one crucial method is film festivals.  Each film festival costs money - if we submit to hundreds of festivals that in itself requires a hefty marketing budget.  Other marketing efforts such as Facebook ads, in addition to the grass roots social media effort, will be needed to get the word out to as many people as possible.

If we can raise beyond the funding goal, we can work on Phase 2:  making all of the raw footage available for free on the Internet under a Creative Commons  license.

希望 - on the sign below - means "hope", the most critical of all human emotions. 

This film is only possible because of an amazing group of volunteers and supporters – please watch the “special thanks” video below to honor them. 

Thank you so much for your support! 

有り難うございます!宜しくお願いします!                                                    (Arigatou gozaimasu!  Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!)

--Stu Levy, Director & Producer


  • Post-production. An amazing group of editors is editing the 40+ hours of raw footage I shot. We're working on the "assembly cut" now - and hope to wrap that and move to the "rough cut" by the end of July. Besides editing, we have to work on graphics, music, sound, narration, color correction/DI, archive footage and additional B-roll, and possibly some animation. A lot, lot, lot, lot to do!

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  • It's a bit early to say but the goal is to be around 70-80 minutes long - typical length for most feature film documentaries.

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  • Almost the entire film will be in Japanese with English subtitles, although the narration will be in English (except for in the original Japanese version which will have Japanese narration).

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  • Any country outside of the US or Japan will be international, but if you have an address in EITHER the US or Japan the DVD will be shipped domestically, so it won't cost extra.

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  • Yes! There are some great ones, but my personal favorite is JEN ( because I volunteered with them when I first went to Tohoku on March 15, 2011.

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  • The funding goals will allow Pray for Japan to be the highest quality film it can be - and to be seen by as many people as possible. Even without the funding, I'm committed to finishing the film no matter what, but I won't be able to market or distribute it effectively. I have dedicated my life this year to Tohoku and your support will allow these efforts to be truly meaningful by reaching many people.

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  • Sure! Our team of volunteers is scrambling to make our deadlines but that won't stop us from emailing, blogging etc. Please feel free to contact us at or of course via FACEBOOK ( or TWITTER (

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  • Absolutely! This project is about everyone pitching in - that's the reason why I can make this film. No matter how small or big of an effort, it will be very much appreciated it! Please inquire via the contact info in the FAQ item above. Thank you!

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  • The film will be completely done by the end of the year (2011), but much of it will be finished by the end of September so we can start submitting to festivals. (Agggghhh, too much to do and not enough time!!!)

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  • The plan is to submit to as many film festivals as possible worldwide (one of our main uses of Kickstarter funding) - that way we can reach a wide audience. Television, video-on-demand, and Internet distribution would come next.

    In Japan, the plan is to have our premiere in Ishinomaki -- in the heart of Tohoku. Theatrical distribution, DVD, TV, mobile and the Internet will follow. (Please consider visiting Tohoku for the premiere!)

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  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    18 backers

    Much appreciation and love from the entire "Pray for Japan" team - and your name listed in a future "Special Thanks" video (online).

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    77 backers

    A digital copy of the Pray for Japan Film with your name listed in the Special Thanks credits section in the film.

  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    49 backers

    A DVD copy of the Pray for Japan Film and 5 photo prints (at least 5" X 7") shot in Tohoku including shipping (add $10 for international) plus a digital copy and Special Thanks in the credits section of the film.

  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    36 backers

    All of the above with the DVD and photos signed by the director plus a Pray for Japan film T-shirt (including shipping; $10 additional for international).

  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    1 backer

    All of the above plus the soundtrack to the film (CD or digital, your choice) and instead of the 5 photo prints you'll get a 5" X 7" photo book with a minimum of 10 photos (signed by the director).

  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    11 backers

    All of the above but the photo book will be a hardcover 8" X 11" book, signed by the director and with a special message from Tohoku victims and volunteers, together with their photos.

  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    0 backers

    All of the above plus an invitation to a screening of the film and a meet-and-greet with the director (your choice of screening location - Tokyo or Los Angeles; travel not included).

  • You selected
    Pledge $2,500 or more

    2 backers

    All of the above plus an invitation to a screening of the film and complimentary dinner with the director (your choice of screening location - Tokyo or Los Angeles; travel not included).

  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    0 backers

    All of the above plus a special "Team Tohoku Koi-nobori " credit in the film and an actual koi-nobori signed by the director and with messages from Tohoku victims and volunteers.

  • You selected
    Pledge $10,000

    0 backers

    All the above + an Executive Producer credit, a trip to the Japan premiere (including 5 days of Tohoku hotel accomodations) and a personal tour of Ishinomaki, Miyagi by the director.

Funding period

- (60 days)