U.S. Filmmaker Jim Whitaker to Bring Award-Winning Documentary as American Film Showcase Speaker, Oct. 18-25

Will Visit Five Major Cities and Tsunami-hit Northeastern Coast

Oct. 15, 2012

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo announced today that U.S. filmmaker Jim Whitaker will make his first visit to Japan as an American Film Showcase (AFS) speaker Oct. 18-25, 2012. The AFS is a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts to bring award-winning American documentaries, feature films, and animated shorts to audiences worldwide. This will be the first AFS program to be held in Japan.

Mr. Whitaker's tour will begin in Northeastern Japan, where he will witness first-hand the damages of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, and Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture. He will then travel to Sendai, Morioka, Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Osaka to present his award-winning documentary REBIRTH at film festivals and screening events. The film chronicles the lives of five Americans directly affected by the 9/11 attacks.

Following the screenings, Mr. Whitaker will discuss how he witnessed the five individuals emerge from despair and draw upon their own strengths to recover. In his words, "Their journey of resilience belongs to all of us, and our communities." The film and discussion will deliver a message of personal and community transformation, from despair to hope, to the people of Japan adversely affected by the March 2011 disasters.

Mr. Whitaker's schedule is as follows:

Friday, Oct. 19, 1-3:30 p.m. Tour of Kesennuma and Rikuzentakata
Saturday, Oct. 20, 3-5:40 p.m. Film screening at Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai
Sunday, Oct. 21, 3-5:40 p.m. Film screening at the Morioka Film Festival
Monday, Oct. 22, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Film screening at the Tokyo International Film Festival
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 5-8 p.m. Film screening at the Fukuoka American Center
Wednesday, Oct. 24, 3-6 p.m. Film screening at Osaka University of Arts (not open to public)

REBIRTH is a Peabody Award-winning documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011. It is an act of personal witness to one of the most profound events in American history and the healing that has come in its wake. From early 2002 through 2009, the film crew chronicled the lives of five people directly affected by 9/11. The participants include a survivor from an impact floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC); a firefighter who survived the collapse of the WTC but lost his best friend; a high school student who lost his mother; a young woman who lost her fiance; and a construction worker who lost his brother, assisted with recovery efforts, and is presently helping to build the Freedom Tower. Their narratives are the thread of recovery and resiliency from grief, loss and trauma that comprise the unique message of the film. REBIRTH also simultaneously tracks - via unprecedented 14-camera time-lapse photography - the entire rebuilding of the site. Philip Glass composed the REBIRTH original score.

Jim Whitaker is the founder and director of Project Rebirth. When he visited Ground Zero shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, he was struck by the determination and resolve that he witnessed in the first responders and volunteers, and felt strongly that the process of rebuilding and recovery should be captured on film. He is currently the Chairman and Producer of Whitaker Entertainment at Walt Disney Studios. Previously, he was the President of Motion Pictures at Imagine Entertainment and completed notable films, including 8 MILE, AMERICAN GANGSTER, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, and ROBIN HOOD. He began his career as a documentary filmmaker to raise money for nonprofit organizations. He wrote and directed LOADED, an award-winning public service announcement against drinking and driving, in memory of a Georgetown University classmate.