April 16, 2013

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/04/17/national/film-sheds-light-on-plight-of-left-behind-parents/#.UW3xorWUSeR

NATIONAL
Film sheds light on plight of left-behind parents
BY MASAMI ITO
STAFF WRITER
APR 17, 2013
ARTICLE HISTORY
PRINT SHARE
Images of left-behind parents, holding up photos of their children, flash across the screen. In the United States, Canada, Europe and even Japan, these parents are waiting to reunite with offspring taken away by their estranged Japanese spouses.

The documentary film “From The Shadows,” completed last December, features five left-behind parents and their struggles to reconnect with their children.

During a recent interview with The Japan Times, producer and director David Hearn stressed that he was motivated to make the film to raise awareness and understanding.

In the 6½ years it took to make the film, Hearn and his coproducer and codirector, Matthew Antell, traveled to five countries, including Japan, to chronicle the parents’ torments.

“When you get to meet left-behind parents and know more about them, you can feel the kind of pain and heartache they experience. These parents are not different from you or me, they are real, imperfect, but always loving and desperate to reconnect with their own children,” Hearn said.

“Their relationship with their children fulfills their identity, who they are and without it they are often shattered.”

Regan Suzuki, Paul Toland and Paul Wong from the U.S., Murray Wood from Canada and Rina Furuichi from Japan, the parents in the film, all have had their children taken away by a Japanese spouse or relatives of the estranged spouse, and all have effectively had no contact with their sons and daughters.

These cases are only the tip of the iceberg. Many left-behind parents have spent years trying to reconnect with children who have been taken to Japan from abroad. Toland, for example, has been forced to live apart from his daughter, who was only 9 months old at the time his then-wife took her in 2003. Wood has been separated from his two children since November 2004, when they were just elementary school students.

“When kids need parents is when they’re growing up. They need me now,” Wood says in the film. “They need their dad to help them go from where they are now to solid, confident adults who have the best chance that they possibly can to be successful in life. That’s what they need, that’s what my job is.”

Some of the fathers, including Wood, take the desperate step of approaching their children as they walk to school. Although Wood succeeds, the lack of contact over the years makes their reunion heartbreakingly awkward as Wood struggles to interact with his son and daughter.

Hearn, who as a child was himself caught in the middle of a bruising custody battle between his parents, encourages left-behind parents to reach out to their children, to let them know that they haven’t been forgotten. The director recalled the awkward interactions when his father started showing up at his sporting events, but he was grateful for the man’s efforts, even though they didn’t have much to say to each other.

“For children who are growing up, learning and developing, the sudden loss of one parent can be devastating. I was lucky because losing one of my parents was never a consideration when my parents had their custody battle, but for children in Japan, if a custody battle occurs, it often means that they will lose contact with one parent,” Hearn said. “We find it unacceptable that this result is the best we can do for our kids.”

The underlying problem for many cases is Japan’s refusal to join The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The treaty aims to prevent cross-border kidnappings by parents and to secure the swift return of children wrongfully taken or who are being held in any member state.

After years of international criticism, the government is finally poised to join the 89 other member states, if the Diet approves related bills as early as next month.

Japan is also the only Group of Eight nation that has yet to sign on to the treaty.

Many such abductions are in defiance of court rulings on child custody and visitation rights handed down in other countries that had been the offsprings’ nation of domicile, as well as the nation where they were born. Thus when a ruling is violated by an apparent flight to another country, the spouse could be subject to a fugitive arrest warrant.

Strong domestic opposition, however, remains.

Many Japanese mothers, for example, claim domestic violence prompted them to take the children to Japan in the first place. And Japanese authorities have repeatedly stressed that in such cases, children will not be sent back regardless of the convention.

Left-behind parents, however, feel this argument could be an easy justification for courts in Japan to side with the alleged abused party and not return their children.

“I’m worried because there are plenty of signatory countries all over the world (whose) compliance record can be very up or down,” Hearn said. “My worry is that Japan signs but nothing really changes. But I hope I’m wrong.”

Some experts and foreign officials have also questioned the effectiveness of Japan’s participation, citing not only the sole-custody law but also the custom of not proactively supporting visitation rights for noncustodial parents.

According to Japanese family courts, there were 409 cases of parents seeking the return of their abducted children in 2001 — a number that jumped to 1,985 by 2011. Experts point out that undoubtedly many more cases exist because these numbers reflect only those cases that have been acknowledged by the courts.

Hearn, along with many left-behind parents, expressed guarded optimism about Japan’s readiness to comply with the treaty.

“We are aware that signing The Hague Convention will not cure everything because there will continue to be situations that are difficult to handle,” Hearn said. “But if signing the treaty accomplishes one thing, we hope that it will create a situation where more relationships between children and their parents are kept intact.”

For more information, visit fromtheshadowsmovie.com.

The following update is from David Hearn, one of the directors of “From the Shadows,” about the upcoming world premier screening in Philadelphia:

Hi again everyone,

I just wanted to update you all. We are running around getting everything ready for the screenings in a week’s time.
Matt is burning the midnight oil to make sure everything is in tip top shape. He has commented that the sound and HD quality of the film will make a big difference over the versions we have shown to date.
A couple things.
1. After the first screening, Tuesday October 23rd, please make sure to visit this page and rate/comment on the film:
http://filmadelphia.festivalgenius.com/2012/films/fromtheshadows0_mattantell_filmadelphia2012
It goes without saying that a high rating and interesting comments will help attract more attention to the film especially from those people who may not be aware of the issue.
2. There will be a reception (two minute walk from the theatre) at the Sheraton Society Hill immediately after the screening on Saturday October 27th. This will provide the chance to meet the filmmakers and and some the subjects of the film in person and hear their stories and where their situations stand now. There will be a light menu and drinks served. Please RSVP us if you plan to attend so we can prepare an adequate amount of food and drink.
Please also keep in mind that there are only 250 seats in the theatre for the Saturday screening. We have already had almost twice that amount of hits on our festival page so make sure to buy your tickets as early as possible!
Tickets can be bought here (same link as above):
http://filmadelphia.festivalgenius.com/2012/films/fromtheshadows0_mattantell_filmadelphia2012
Looking forward to seeing everybody there!
Regards,
David
From The Shadows will have its world premiere at the Philadelphia Film Festival
next month.

http://www.filmadelphia.org/

The tickets for both From The Shadows screenings at the Philadelphia Film
Festival are on sale now ($12).

First go to this link:
http://filmadelphia.festivalgenius.com/2012/films/fromtheshadows0_mattantell_fil\
madelphia2012

Then go to the bottom of the screen and make sure you select the screening(s)
you want to attend and proceed through to payment.

The screening dates are: Tuesday Oct. 23rd and Saturday Oct. 27th

http://www.policymic.com/articles/15499/from-the-shadows-documentary-reflects-sad-reality-of-government-sponsored-child-abduction-in-japan

Please help support this documentary if you can:

http://www.indiegogo.com/From-The-Shadows?c=home&a=559062

A screening of the practically finished version of the “From the Shadows” documentary film about child abduction in Japan took place on November 7 at the Capitol Visitor Center Theater in Washington, D.C.  The screening was sponsored by Congressman Chris Smith’s office and invitees consisted largely of left-behind parents and their family members

“From the Shadows” is a hard hitting, superbly made documentary film that has been years in the making.  It documents the heartbreaking attempts of left-behind parents to see their children in Japan and accurately exposes how the system facilitates child abductions in Japan.  In addition to featuring a Japanese mother whose child was taken by her Japanese husband, the film also focuses in depth on four international cases:  Canadian father Murray Wood, U.S. fathers Paul Toland and Paul Wong, and U.S. mother Regan Haight.

The film is directed and produced by Matt Antell and David Hearn.  Although David Hearn was unable to attend the screening, Matt Antell was present and also participated in a panel afterwards with Paul Toland and Murray Wood, which can be viewed at the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3bNNyVkH60

In his remarks, Matt Antell noted that the producers are hoping that the film will be shown at the Berlin International Film Festival and also possibly the Sundance film festival in 2012.

To learn more about the film and how you can help, please visit the following link:

http://www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com/

embassy rally

On Saturday, October 3, 2009, Children’s Rights Council of Japan organized a “Free Christopher Savoie” Rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., demanding that the Japanese government immediately release Christopher Savoie and reunite him with his children, and also acknowledge and resolve all other cases of child abductions in Japan. Speakers included CRC of Japan co-founder Walter Benda, U.S. Navy Commander Paul Toland, Amy Savoie (Christopher Savoie’s wife), Kay Kephart (an American grandmother imprisoned while trying to find her grandchildren), David Levy (head of the national Children’s Rights Council nonprofit organization), and 2 U.S. left-behind fathers, Randy Collins and Lance Litwiller. Media included CNN, NBC, CBS, NHK, FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK NEWS, TV TOKYO, KYODO NEWS, and documentary film maker Matt Antell, fromtheshadowsmovie.com. A candlelight vigil was held that evening in front of the White House.

Link to Video Slideshow of Oct. Rally and Vigil for Christopher Savoie (Music sample:  Trabryu “Road”)

Click the one titled American jailed in Japan over custody battle.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/33068613#33086474