Flowers will bloom.

Takashi's and Midori's final resting place

Takashi’s and Midori’s final resting place – 1st May 1951

63 years ago today, on May 1st 1951, Takashi Nagai – the “Saint of Urakami” passed away.

It was a short but full life. In his 43 years he had managed to fit in a lifetime of accomplishments and created an enduring legacy through his teachings and writings.

The good doctor, although more or less bedridden in his final years, worked tirelessly to make Urakami district (ground zero) a place where “beautiful flowers will bloom”.

He left behind copious essays, memoirs, drawings and calligraphy on various themes including God, war, death, medicine, and orphanhood. These enjoyed a large readership during the American Occupation of Japan (1945–1952) as spiritual chronicles of the atomic bomb experience.

His work towards the spiritual restoration of his country led to him being honoured as a National Hero of Japan, and in 1991, “The Takashi Nagai Peace Award”, was founded to annually promote writings and essays on “love” and “peace” from all over Japan.

As befitting a man born into a Samurai family (Samurai means “to serve”) he has recently been honoured by the Catholic Church with the title “Servant of God”, the first step to sainthood. But to many people in Nagasaki and around the world, Takashi Nagai is already considered a saint.

Walking around Nagasaki today you will still find a living legacy  to the spirit of Dr. Nagai. Surrounding Urakami Cathedral are the cherry trees he planted shortly before his death. They defied science which declared that no life could grow there for 75 years.

Nagasaki is indeed a city that has risen from the ashes. It is a city where the past has left its indelible shadow forever imprinted upon its surface and on the collective consciousness of its inhabitants, but it is also a place that embraces the future, a city that continues to grow and bloom.

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More behind-the-scenes from our last shoot

Cast and crew getting ready to shoot a scene

Cast and crew getting ready to shoot a scene

Before locking ourselves away for a couple of weeks to work on editing footage that now amounts to most of the film, just time to post some more behind-the-scenes photos from last week’s shoot.

It was a great day filming. On the cast front, alongside Leo, Kaya Yuzuki returned to play Matron Hisamatsu, and, as we mentioned in our last blog, we had two new cast members; up and coming actress Charissa Shearer (watch out for her!) and we were honored to have the very talented character actresses Susan Jameson, who has been a regular face in British drama for many years, to play the part of Helen Keller.

On the crew front, South and City College Birmingham students proved to be a great asset on set once again with hair and make-up students Tania Ashworth and Samantha Wilson doing a fantastic job for us!

Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be preparing for our last day of filming which will take place in September – so watch this space for more info!

Most of the wonderful photos below are courtesy of fellow local film-maker Phil Pugh. Phil is also completing filming on his own feature film, much of which was shot on a custom built set- just down the road from our own!

If, like us, you are a fan of true independent and original films, then you might want to check out Phil’s film here!

Birmingham South and City student Tania Ashworth applying make-up to Leo Ashizawa

South and City college Birmingham student Tania Ashworth applying make-up to Leo Ashizawa (Takashi Nagai)

Birmingham South and City student Sam Wilson working on Charissa's period hair style

Fellow South and City college Birmingham student Sam Wilson working on Charissa’s period hair style

Tania doing the finishing touches to the hair!

Tania doing the finishing touches to the hair!

Producer Nigel Davey shares a joke with Charissa Shearer, Susan Jameson and costume ace Monica Price

Producer Nigel Davey shares a joke with Charissa Shearer, Susan Jameson and costume ace Monica Price

Leo and Charissa relaxing between takes

Leo and Charissa relaxing between takes

Director Ian Higgins discussing a scene with Charissa Shearer

Ian discussing a scene with Charissa and Leo

Veteran actress Susan Jameson gets into character with Charissa Shearer

Susan Jameson gets into character with Charissa Shearer

Susan with Leo, rehearsing the moment Helen Keller meets Dr. Nagai

Susan with Leo, rehearsing the moment Helen Keller meets Dr. Nagai

Charissa and Leo just before a take

Charissa and Leo waiting to film a scene

Monica, Tania and Leo with freshly shaved head!

Monica, Tania and Leo with freshly shaved head!

Producer Nigel Davey with wardrobe ace Monica

Producer Nigel Davey with wardrobe ace Monica

Susan and Charissa about to go for a take

Susan and Charissa about to go for a take

Leo having a spot of make-up retouching!

Leo having a spot of make-up retouching!

Our two assistant camera  men, Josh and Dan step in front of the camera to act as body doubles for us!

Our two assistant camera men, Josh and Dan step in front of the camera to act as body doubles for us!

Director Dominic Higgins setting up his camera while Josh sets up another angle

Dominic setting up his camera while Josh sets up for another angle. Photo credit: Chris Willmore

Kaya Yuzuki and Leo about to film a scene

Kaya Yuzuki and Leo about to film a scene. Photo credit: Dan Woodward

Leo with Steve Green on clapper duties

Leo with Stephen Green on clapper duties. Photo credit: Dan Woodward

Camera’s roll…

Production Room

Production Room

In the week that marked the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki we officially began production on the live action drama scenes, for “All That Remains” (working title).

Production Trailer

Hair, Wardrobe and Make-Up department, courtesy of F.A.T.T.S (Film, Television and Transport Services).

Newest member of the team, Nigel found himself thrown right into the deep end with helping us to organize what is without question, the largest film shoot- in terms of scope and logistics, we’ve ever attempted, Nigel’s risen to the challenge. We are indeed lucky to have him on the team.

Nigel Davey

Nigel on set “Sorted!”

Weeks of preparation went into organizing the ‘atomic bomb shoot’, which is the first of the drama scenes to be filmed. A derelict industrial site in Birmingham (UK) was turned into a set piece depicting atom bombed Nagasaki. It was a perfect location, a football pitch sized land full of rubble and debris.

The site manager and owner were incredibly generous in allowing us free run of the property for the two days. They handed us the keys to the gates and basically said, “It’s all yours!”

On set

A corner of Oldbury Birmingham UK was turned into atom bombed Nagasaki

It was a great shoot thanks to a great crew; everyone was willing to get their hands dirty- just the sort of crew we like to work with! They all did an outstanding job!

Dirty Job

It’s a dirty Job at times

camera operator

Lilian, the youngest assistant camera operator in the history of film

We had a great Special Make-Up FX team who worked from artwork created by directors Ian & Dominic Higgins and archive photos to re-create the “Walking Ghosts” – the victims. We do not intend to make this film in anyway gratuitous, but want our audience to glimpse the horror of that day, the snapshots that are seared into the memories of the survivors.

We also have to give a special mention to the wonderful supporting cast drafted in from the Local Japanese community. They were patient with us and threw themselves into their parts like true professionals. We captured some beautiful performances that at times were very emotional. One of the cast, a lady named, Kikuko Wall, grew up in Hiroshima just after the war and explained that while she was holding the hand of a girl who was playing  a ‘dying victim’, she was connecting with the past. Tears filled her eyes as our cameras rolled.

On set

Preparing for a take

During a short coffee break, Kikuko presented us with a piece of paper that had the lyrics to a song about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then gave an impromptu performance for the entire cast and crew. It’s a beautiful song and she sung it beautifully, you can see Kikuko‘s performance in the video below .

“No more Hiroshima No More Nagasaki”

Below are some photos from the two day shoot. All of the photos on this page were taken by local filmmaker Phil Pugh- he took some great shots, enjoy!

Noriko

Kikuko talks about growing up in Hiroshima after the war

Bomb Victim

Ian gets an actor ready for a shot

Ian & Dominic on set

Ian & Dominic and Joel plus assistant on set.

Monica

Wardrobe wiz Monica turned out to be very handy with a pair of scissors

Supporting Cast

Two of the supporting cast- they were still smiling at the end of  two very long days.

Bad Hair

Bad Hair day? Another supporting cast member takes it all in her stride.

Make up

One of the Make-up team at work. They did an excellent job for us.

On set

Filming with a supporting cast member

Nikki

Hair stylist Nikki sets to work on a cast member’s hair

Ian and Joel on set

Ian and Joel on set

Rain coat

Joel and Dominic persevering in the rain

woman-and-baby

The youngest cast member at just 6 months old

Joel and Ian

Joel on camera, while Ian gets ready to shout “action!” on the first of the drama scenes to be filmed…

Three ladies

Three supporting cast members wait patiently for us to set up a shot

Ian and Nigel

Ian and Nigel discuss a shot

Nigel, Dominic and Ian

Nigel, Dominic and Ian share a joke with cast

crew-shot

Some of the cast and crew

Photo credits Phil Pugh (c) Major Oak Entertainment Ltd

The shoot attracted the interest of the local press, so it was a great opportunity to generate some free publicity and good timing as we are about to launch a new crowd funding campaign.

You can read the local story here http://www.stourbridgenews.co.uk

Now it’s back to the storyboard… as we prepare for the greenscreen and studio based shoot in London, which will take place during the first two weeks of September!

A Song for Nagasaki… and Hiroshima.

One of the things we hope to achieve with All That Remains, is to bring the story of the atomic bombings more into popular culture, so more people are made aware of these events.

With that in mind, we thought we’d post a blog about how the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima have been remembered in popular music through the decades…

THE BELLS OF NAGASAKI (Nagasaki No Kane) was written by poet, Hachiro Sato for the 1950 movie of the same name. It became one of the most enduring hits of the decade in Japan and was even played daily on the speakers at the train station in Nagasaki.

 

Wishful Thinking’s HIROSHIMA album was first released in the UK on the B&C label in 1971.

Initially the album made little impact however, in 1978, the album was re-released by Global Records and sold well in excess of 1,000,000 copies in Germany, where it remained in the charts for 41 weeks. It has since gone on to become the 17th bestselling single in Germany since charts began.

In 1990 it provided German singer Sandra with one of her biggest hits, when she released the song on her fourth studio album Paintings in Yellow.

 

ENOLA GAY is a song by British synthpop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). It was written by front man Andy McCluskey and was released as a 7″ single on 26 September 1980. ENOLA GAY reached number 8 in the UK charts and topped the charts in Portugal and other European countries. An early version with a slightly different arrangement appears on the group’s Peel Sessions 1979–1983 album.

 

English punk rock band, Crass released the single NAGASAKI NIGHTMARE on their own label, back in 1981.

 

In 2002 Bryan Ferry released his album Frantic which included the track, HIROSHIMA, written by Bryan Ferry and Eurthmics Dave Stewart and inspired by the 1959 movie, Hiroshima mon amour. It features Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead on guitar.

 

HIROSHIMA-NAGASAKI RUSSIAN ROULETTE was original written and performed by American folk singer, Jim Page. It was later covered by Irish folk singer Christy Moore who in 2007 was named as Ireland’s greatest living musician in RTÉ’s People of the Year Awards.

 

More recently…

A THOUSAND PAPER CRANES is a track from the album, Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined  by Japanese experimental rock band Mono, released in 2004. The album comes with origami paper and instructions on how to fold a paper crane.

The song is inspired by the true story of 12 year old Sadako Sasaki, who after being diagnosed with “atomic bomb disease” (leukemia), turns to her native Japanese beliefs and makes one thousand paper cranes so the gods will grant her wish to be well.

 

A Thousand Suns by American rock band Linkin Park was released on September 10, 2010, under Warner Bros. Records. The album’s title comes from the Hindu Sanskrit scripture, the Bhagavad Gita:

If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one,”

A quote made famous by J. Robert Oppenheimer in reference to the atomic bomb, which references the numerous apocalyptic themes of the album.

THE REQUIEM/THE RADIANCE/BURNING IN THE SKIES

 

THE RADIANCE (ZWIER.Z. REMIX) OFFICIAL HD MUSIC VIDEO

 

LOST IN AUGUST is a song that deals with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, from Japanese Electro / Hip Hop / Rock band, 5th Blood.

Contains language that some people may find offensive.

If you know of any other songs about  the atomic bombings then let us know…

Because words are all we have, right now…

Yesterday an extremely generous person donated $2,000 to our campaign on Indiegogo! We’ve said it before, but as it’s true, we’ll say it again, every dollar/pound we receive goes a very long way, so a donation like this is a huge leap forward for us.

And so, we thought now would be a good time to pause and say a big thank you to everyone who has so far donated, supported and championed our various campaigns to raise the necessary budget we badly need.

Special mention should go to blogger Frank Weathers for all his support (and donations) since the launch of our first campaign on Indiegogo. Frank’s efforts and enthusiasm have been a crucial part of the successes we’ve had. You can check out Frank’s blog here –

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yimcatholic/

We couldn’t not also give mention to Fr. Paul Glynn, who has been so helpful and supportive of our efforts, and continues to offer help and assistance, despite not long returning to Australia, having spent several weeks in Japan, raising money for a far more noble and worthy cause than ours, helping the victims of the Fukishima earthquake.

http://maristfathers.org.au/Pages/2011-11-news.html

We’d also like to give a special mention to Mr and Mrs Yoshida from Nara, Japan. After hearing of our desire to find authentic, traditional Japanese clothing, the Yoshida’s have sent us several parcels containing various items of clothing! Not to mention the fact that while we were in Nara, Mrs Yoshida kindly offered to come shopping with us – an offer we gratefully accepted!

Obviously, we still have a way to go until we reach our goal, but for all that we have received so far, and all that we may receive in the weeks ahead, thank you.

Help a ground-breaking  movie get made – 

see your name in the credits!

Help us tell his story

And help us tell his story to the new generation.

http://www.indiegogo.com/All-That-Remains-Phase-3

The grand design of All That Remains

As we work hard on raising the much needed budget for the drama sequences, there’s an awful lot of other work to be done. The main focus right now is on the script, which is currently being re-worked. As anticipated before our trip to Japan, the interviews and personal experiences we encountered has greatly influenced the drama aspects, but this is just one of many jobs that needs to be done…

The other big job that has to be tackled before we can shoot is the production design and pre-visualisation of certain scenes – that is storyboarding, “pre-visual” artwork and test shots of the special effects. All films require an enormous amount of planning, but a film that deals with epic scenes of war and destruction demands so much more.

Directors Ian and Dominic Higgins always like to envisage a scene before they shoot it and often, at the back of their sets, you’ll find a wall covered in storyboard art.

Storyboards on wall

Storyboards on wall

“Storyboards are vital for working out potential problems before you even pick up a camera”, explains Ian. “But, most importantly, they allow us to convey our vision for a particular scene to all the crew and cast, so everyone knows what to do”.

“The other reason they are so important is they act as check list of shots, when you have to have a certain amount of shots in the bag before the end of day, it’s so easy to miss one or two because things can become a mad blur of activity”, adds Dominic.

Storyboard art

Designing a sequence - A storyboard illustrating the directors vision for a scene

Of course a film such as this is going to require big effect shots, and not just the obvious ones of mass destruction and warfare. “We’re going to recreate a Nagasaki that no longer exists, so there has to be no modern looking buildings in sight”, explains Dominic. “We’re bringing the past back to life so our audience can experience the life of Dr. Nagai and feel that all important connection”.

Nagasaki before the bombing.

Nagasaki before the bombing - FX shot.

Nagasaki after the bombing – FX shot

Nagasaki after the bombing – FX shot.

To create the necessary special effects, “All That Remains” will draw on both cutting edge technology such as computer generated imagery and 3D animation and more old fashioned (and time honoured) techniques such as model miniatures and prosthetic make-up.

Computer generated Urakami Cathedral

Computer generated model of Urakami Cathedral.

Computer generated model of Urakami Cathedral

Another view of the computer generated Urakami Cathedral.

“We’re big fans of mixing mediums, besides it makes it a lot harder to tell how a certain effect was created when you draw on a variety of techniques. Special Effects are the magic tricks of film, if it’s too obvious how an effect is achieved, the illusion is blown and the spell is broken”, enthuses Ian. “The more real the re-constructed sequences feel, the easier an audience will become involved,” points out Dominic.

Pre-visual artwork

Dr. Nagai vs the Fat Man - Pre-visual artwork illustrating a dream scene in "All That Remains".

Amongst the ever expanding pile of production art-work, test FX shots and concept sketches, one thing is clear; we have the makings of a very special and unique tribute to an equally unique and special life of a modern day saint, who endured the unthinkable and left behind a legacy of hope.

Please show your support by heading over to Indiegogo and making a pledge. Every dollar/pound goes a very long way!

Indiegogo link - help make it happen!

Pledge your support today!

Don’t forget, we’re also offering the chance for a few people to own a piece of the movie (and a percentage of any profits the film will make.) Email us here for more info on this special and limited offer.

A message from the heart and the Maria Hibakusha

From day one, we intended this film to be shaped by the people that we would interview, that it would be, as much as possible, Nagasaki itself telling us the story of its heritage and the life story of surely its greatest adopted son. We wanted it to be as personal and real as we could possibly make it.

This is why, the scripting of the drama aspects was kept open for change right up until we returned from Japan and had watched through the hours of interviews that we had captured, and why we’re still in the process of shaping the final draft of the script.

“It’s a fascinating and exciting way to work, “ explained Director Dominic Higgins, “because, even when you’re sitting in the edit room, you don’t quite know where things are going to go.”

“It’s a very organic way of working and the story is telling itself, we’re just fusing the elements together, and then adding modern technology to bring it back to life – and that’s the way it should be for this kind of story”, added Director Ian Higgins.

We were very privileged to have been granted an interview with the Archbishop of Nagasaki, the Most Reverend Joseph Mitsuaki Takami. As the head of the Catholic community in Nagasaki, his voice is crucial to the telling of this story.

 Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami

Archbishop Joseph Mitsuaki Takami interviewed for "All That Remains".

The Archbishop also introduced us to the “Maria Hibakusha” – the burned head of a statue of Mary from the Cathedral at Urakami. Hibakusha is a Japanese word that literally translates to “explosion effected person” and its scars eerily mirror those of the human victims with its once piercing blue eyes burned out of their sockets. The statue head was one of the most haunting sites that we saw while filming in Japan.

Maria Hibakusha

"Maria Hibakusha" - a silent witness.

In the exclusive video “extra” below, Archbishop Takami explains what the message of Nagasaki is for the world and talks about the Maria Hibakusha.

The Japan experience – Part 2

Stain glass Urakami Cathedral

The day after returning to Nagasaki from our trip to Nara, we had an interview arranged with Fr. Renzo, who runs a beautifully designed museum dedicated to the 26 Martyrs of Japan. After a brief but informative tour of the museum, it was on to the interview.

Outside the museum there is a huge relief depicting each of the 26 martyrs.

Again, we were working to a very tight deadline and before we got too comfortable, it was time to make our way to our next destination, the Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims, where we had three other interviews scheduled.

We were privileged to be able to interview Mr. Yoshitoshi Fukahori, who is also head of the Committee for Atomic Bombing Research and Archive materials and a survivor of the atomic bombing. His interview included a detailed slide show of photos that helped bring his story and experience vividly to life.

Director Ian Higgins and co. producer Joel Fletcher set up the camera angle, while Director Dominic Higgins (off camera) discusses the interview to be filmed with Mr. Fukahori.

After his interview, we showed Mr. Fukahori some of our pre-visual artwork to make sure it was as authentic as possible. Mr. Fukahori seemed impressed with the artwork and told us it was just how it was.

Mr. Fukahori relives his experience as a survivor of the atomic bombing.

A reporter from the Japanese newspaper, “The Yomiuri Shimbun”, was also there at Mr. Fukahori’s interview to talk to us about the film – we appeared in the newspaper the next morning! So we also managed to get some good publicity within Japan.

Our second interview was with Professor Jun. Professor Jun and his students have created a computer generated model of pre-bombed Nagasaki, guided by Mr. Fukahori’s memories. From a research point of view, this “virtual” reconstruction will allow us a fascinating and highly detailed look at the Nagasaki of Dr. Nagai’s youth.

Next we had an interview with Mr. Takashi Morita, the director of the Peace Memorial Hall.

As well as being granted special permission to film and photograph in the memorial hall by Mr Morita, we were given a private view of a special light show on the roof of the Peace Hall, where 70,000 fibre optic lights shine from the bottom of a large tree lined basin of water. Needless to say, once again we felt incredibly honoured and very privileged.

Each light represents the soul of a victim of that day. After we got our footage, we downed our cameras and took a moment to let the experience sink in. It was profoundly beautiful and another memory to treasure.

The beautiful light display on the roof of the Atomic bomb memorial hall.

70,000 lights for 70,000 souls.

Our overriding experience of our time in the Peace Memorial Hall was one of deep contemplation. On one hand, there is a quiet, but very deep and sincere respect for all the victims of the atomic bombings, and on the other, a passionate plea for the world to learn from the horrors endured by the people of Nagasaki on that summer day. There is no trace of bitterness or anger whatsoever, and this is undoubtedly why a visit to a place such as the Memorial Hall has such a profound effect.

The next morning we had an interview with Dr. Masao Tomonaga, whose father was also a personal physician to Dr. Nagai in his final years. Dr. Tomonaga had memories of meeting Dr. Nagai has a child and showed us a first edition of Dr. Nagai’s landmark book, “The Bells Of Nagasaki” which had a written message from Dr. Nagai to his father!

Dr. Tomonaga knew Dr. Nagai personally and gave us some valuable insights into the man and his life.

Dr. Tomonaga’s first edition of “Bells of Nagasaki”, signed by the author.

Dr. Tomonaga told us that he believed our film was potentially one of the most important developments in recent years for the story of all those who suffered through the atomic bombing, alongside Dr. Nagai.

Our final interview was with Mr. Yoshiro Yamawaki, of the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace, who was 11 when the atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki. Once again, what we heard was a harrowing and intimate account of living through the atomic holocaust. It was a privilege for us to be able to speak to both survivors of the atomic bombing, and our interviews with them enabled us to capture the true human face of the disaster.

The interview was followed by a tour of the atomic bomb museum where we got to see more examples of the destructive power unleashed on that day in 1945. One of the most poignant items on display was a wall clock that had stopped at 11.02am, the exact time the bomb exploded.

Forever frozen at 11.02 am, August the 9th, 1945.

We spent our last few hours in Nagasaki filming in the Peace Park. Standing at the point of the epicentre of the bomb was very unnerving, as was standing before the remains of the original Urakami Cathedral.  We took a moment to let it all sink in, and then, with only a couple of hours to catch our plane we decided to risk a mad dash to Yamazato Elementary School where Dr. Nagai had erected a memorial for all the children who perished there.

It was very long journey home but it was good to be able to sit down for more than five minutes!

The Peace Memorial Park.

The Peace Statue

The 10-meter-tall Peace Statue by sculptor Seibou Kitamura dominates the park. The right hand points to the sky and symbolises the threat of nuclear weapons while the left hand is extended to the side in a symbol of eternal peace.

All that remains of the original cathedral in Urakami.

A reconstructed Dutch settlement in Nagasaki – some wonderful traditional buildings = plenty of useful material for FX shots.

Every so often we had the feeling of really stepping back in time.

During our trip to Japan, we became increasingly aware of just how important our film was to the people we had met, with so many of them thanking us for attempting to make their story and the story of Dr. Nagai better known to the world.

We were incredibly passionate about telling this story before we went to Japan and we were obligated to make the film because of the donations we had received, but now we also have a very personal obligation to fulfil. The film has found its soul.

The “Hibaku Maria” or “Bombed Maria” a statue of Mary from the Cathedral at Urakami that survived the bombing. Preserved today in a small chapel inside the Cathedral, its scared face is a haunting reminder of the human face of the tragedy.

Help make a movie worth watching!

It was thanks to all the kind donations we received via our crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo.com that we were able to fly out to Japan and film the wonderful interviews and amazing footage we now have. But… we still need to raise a little more money as we turn our efforts to producing the drama aspects of the movie.

The drama will concentrate on the human story behind the facts. We believe that drama is the most powerful way to bring this side of the story to life with the impact that it needs, so we’ve launched one final campaign on Indiegogo  with every penny raised going into the production of the movie.

So once more we are asking  for your support and help in bringing this incredible and important story to screens all over the world and into the hearts of people everywhere, where it belongs.

Below Fr. Paul Glynn explains why he believes the story of Dr. Nagai still remains so relevant today.

To help us make it happen point your browser to our page onIndiegogo.

We’ve also just launched the official All That Remains website  be sure to check it out!

The Japan experience – Part 1

After an epic 22 hour journey from England to Japan, we took a brief walk around Nagasaki to get a feel for the place, and then had an early night, ready for the busy schedule that awaited us over the next 10 days.

Our first interviews were with Tokusaburo Nagai, the grandson of Dr. Nagai and Fr. Jose Aguilar, an expert on early Christianity in Japan as well as the life of Dr. Nagai. After a look around the small museum dedicated to Dr. Nagai, we set up next door in Nyokodo, the little hut where Dr. Nagai spent the last few years of his life.

Nyokodo today– This is the tiny hut where Dr. Nagai and his two children lived after the atomic bombing.

Takashi in Nyokodo

Takashi Nagai at work in Nyokodo. His body is weak, but his mind and spirit are strong. Perhaps his most remarkable achievement is the sheer volume of books, articles and drawings he produced while confined to a bed.

After so many months researching, it was very strange to be actually sitting in his house, but in order for us to be able to faithfully recreate his story on film; the connection we felt walking in his footsteps was vital.

Our next interview was with Sister Kataoka, a historian with a personal connection to Dr. Nagai – her father was one of his doctors. She came to the interview with mountains of research material to show us. It was a fascinating hour or so.

Next on our schedule was an interview with Archbishop Takami. After the interview, the Archbishop gave us a guided tour of the rebuilt Cathedral. In the shadow of the great cathedral stand several atom bombed scarred statues, silent witnesses to an event that today, we can’t really imagine.

Director Dominic Higgins and producer Joel Fletcher talk with Archbishop Takami on their way to visiting the rebuilt cathedral in Urakami.

The rebuilt Urakami cathedral towers majestically above the trees.

We had an earlier than usual start the next day because we had an 8 hour journey from Nagasaki to Nara ahead of us, where we were to meet Fr. Paul Glynn, author of “A Song For Nagasaki”.

We discovered just before leaving for Japan that Nara was celebrating its 1300th anniversary – as the number 13 played such an important part in our previous film, Finding Fatima, we took this as a good omen.

It turned out that our brief stay in Nara would be amongst the most treasured highlights of our entire trip to Japan.

We’ve had many wonderful experiences working on our previous films, but nothing compares to the welcome we received in Nara. On our first night we had a welcome dinner of Traditional Japanese food with Fr. Glynn and the men of “The Glynn club” washed down with Japanese beer and Sake. Unfortunately we had to cut the night a little short as we had to conduct one of our main interviews – with Fr. Glynn!

Fr. Paul Glynn.

Fr. Paul Glynn, author of “A Song For Nagasaki”.

The next morning we were up bright and early to film the Sunday mass, where many of the parishioners had agreed to dress in traditional Kimonos, and in the case of the women, wearing white veils also.

I don’t think any of us has ever heard hymns sung in such perfect harmony as we did in that mass in Nara. There is something very special and pure about the faith of the Japanese Christians we’ve come across in our research, a deep sincerity, which is both humbling and inspiring at the same time, and this is what we witnessed during that mass.

Fr. Paul Glynn gives communion. Note the beautiful headdresses worn by the women.

During the service, Mrs Okada, a local soprano sung “The Bells of Nagasaki” – the theme song to the original 1950 movie based on the life of Dr. Nagai. The performance was stunning and this was among the most emotional moments of our trip.

Soprano Yumiko Okada gives a powerful rendition of “The Bells of Nagasaki”.

We definitely wasn’t expecting what came at the end of the service. First Mrs. Yoshida, who, along with her husband Andy and Fr. Glynn, had helped arrange everything for our trip to Nara, performed a special welcome dance for us, and then we were asked to stand in front of the altar where we were presented with so many wonderful gifts, including an old Noh play mask (Noh is an ancient Japanese form of theatre).

One of the many gifts we received from the people of Nara was this beautiful Noh mask.

Speaking on behalf of Major Oak Entertainment, director Ian Higgins addressed the parishioners, “We came to Japan to tell the story of one man, Dr. Nagai, but now, we realise this is the story of everyone in this church, of every Japanese Christian who ever lived. It is a story of a faith that survived against the odds, a faith that stands as an example to the rest of the world.”

Below Mrs Yoshida performs the traditional dance.

At the end of service we made a special recording of Mrs Okada singing “The Bells of Nagasaki”, for use in our film. We had a farewell lunch with Fr. Glynn and several of the parishioners before a quick shopping spree for traditional Kimonos, to be used as costumes in the movie. Mrs Yoshida kindly offered to come with us (we would have been lost without her!)

We were very sad to leave Nara so soon – but we had a very demanding and tight schedule, so we set off on another 8 hour journey back to Nagasaki.

Director Ian Higgins stands before a monument honoring the memory of the “Hidden Christians” of Nagasaki.

Major Oak meets the Mighty Oak: In Nagasaki's Glover garden, we found a special Oak tree that had been planted to commemorate Nagasaki City’s participation in the UK-Japan Green Alliance 2002 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Anglo/Japanese Alliance. Director Dominic Higgins reads the inscription which states that the tree symbolizes strength, loyalty and longevity.

The 26 Martyrs – an exercise in character building.

Character design

A digital actor comes to life.

For the visual style of the animated short, “26 Martyrs”, we wanted to take a stylized approach, but we wanted it to have the look and feel of traditional Japanese art. The final designs also incorporated a strong element of contemporary Japanese art inspired by Anime and Magna graphic novels.

Character design was something we spent a lot of time developing, being very conscious that we were telling the story of men that have become icons to many around the world.

Character building

Character building – the faces of each character are “sculpted” and shaped using specialised software.

While exploring different ideas for the character design, directors Ian and Dominic Higgins were adamant about one thing, “for the character designs for 26 Martyrs, it’s important that the personalities are visible in the faces of the characters. We want memorable faces”.

View the trailer for “26 Martyrs” below.