SXSW Film Review: Made in Japan

Classic country, but from an unconventional place

Modern country music isn’t exactly a better version of its progenitors. Instead, Hot 100 radio is plagued by overprocessed dribble and unlistenable regurgitations. Tomi Fujiyama is a relic of that old, classic country.

The Japanese cowgirl – “the first female Japanese country music star” – spent her life gigging the hard way, traveling from U.S. military bases in the Pacific to the Vegas strip, and alternately hitting lucky strikes and naively believing conmen. In 1964, Fujiyama shared the Grand Ole Opry stage with Johnny Cash and received that evening’s only standing ovation (the story of which is oft-repeated throughout the film), and her dream is to return to that stage one more time.

Josh Bishop’s doc (executive produced by Morgan Spurlock and Elijah Wood, who also narrates) uses Fujiyama as a metaphor for the current country conundrum in Nashville: Is there room for the old workhorses, the players with heart and grit, in a land overrun with amusement parks and celebrity? Bishop steers Fujiyama’s story with lo-fi camerawork and interviews with descendants of the original Nashville crew, none of whom are welcoming “new country” with open arms.

Made in Japan

24 Beats Per Second
Friday, March 20, 11am, Alamo Ritz

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SXSW Film, SXSW, Made in Japan, Josh Bishop, Tomi Fujiyama, Morgan Spurlock, Elijah Wood

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