This documentary film about parental child abductions in Japan now can be ordered on DVD through the following link:

http://fromtheshadowsmovie.com/

“From the Shadows”:

A documentary Film about International Child Abduction

Awarded honorable mention for documentary film, Philadelphia Film Festival 2012

http://www.fromtheshadowsmovie.com/

Learn more about this heartbreaking issue, and how to date no child has been returned to his/her country of habitual residence as a result of any action taken by the government of Japan. The Foreign Nurses Association of Japan presents the film as a public service.

Date: February 22 (Saturday)

Time: 2 PM-5 PM

Venue: Tokyo Women’s Plaza

Cost: ¥500 donation

Q&A session with director David Hearn will follow the film.

This event is open to the public–please invite friends and colleagues. For more information, please contact Ann Endo, endofam@gol.com. Reservations appreciated for planning purposes, but not required.

From The Shadows announces November Screening in Canada!

November 3rd screening in Vancouver!

Hello everyone,

We wanted to announce that we have been invited by the International Rights of Children Society to come to Vancouver to screen From The Shadows.

Date/location: Sunday, Nov. 3rd at theVancity Theatre in Vancouver

Time: Doors will open at 1:30 pm and the film will begin at 2:00 pm.
There will be a discussion after the film and everything will wrap up around 4:30

Tickets: Information will be made available soon. 

Following the screening, IROCS is trying to arrange a venue for a more casual get together around a light dinner to continue the discussion on the issue.
For those in the Vancouver and Seattle areas, we very much hope we can meet up with you there! We are also inviting as many media members as we can we to impress upon them how this issue affects so many people both in and out of Japan. 

We are also trying to arrange an earlier screening on Gabriola Island on Friday November 1st in the evening.
More on that as details become available. 

Thanks so much and we look forward to seeing you there.

Matt and David

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

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120413f2.html

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fate of child abductions bill in Diet uncertain

Staff writer

The government finally submitted legislation to the Diet last month for joining the Hague Convention on international child abductions but its passage appears far from certain.

Western allies have long pressured Japan to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and are watching closely to see whether Tokyo lives up to an earlier promise to ratify it.

But the prospects of this happening in the near future already appear bleak because lawmakers are preoccupied with just one issue — Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s plan to hike the consumption tax.

Although Noda’s administration has decided to push for signing the Hague Convention, lawmakers in both the ruling and opposition camps have serious reservations and the bill’s passage is in doubt. According to the Lower House secretariat, a bill was submitted to the Diet in early March but has not even been referred to a committee for deliberation yet.

Lawmakers opposed to the treaty argue that joining it may result in children being forcibly returned to an abusive environment, since many Japanese mothers have cited domestic violence as a reason for fleeing their overseas domiciles and taking their children to Japan.

But abandoned spouses, who end up with little or no access to their children, have been urging Japan to take action.

At a seminar about the Hague Convention on Monday, Kazuyuki Hamada, a parliamentary secretary at the Foreign Ministry, admitted it’s possible the bill may not be approved by the end of the Diet’s current session.

Hamada, however, confirmed that the ministry is treating the issue as its top priority and will do everything in its power to ensure the bill’s passage.

“The political maneuvering is not easy because we are surrounded by so many (competing) political agendas,” Hamada said. “(Given) these agendas, we are not 100 percent certain we can ratify the Hague Convention by the end of this Diet session.

“But we are determined to push it forward because the issue is hugely relevant to the values of not only of our country, but also those of the international community,” he said.

Kirsten, an American mother who attended the seminar and asked that her last name be withheld, recounted how her former Japanese spouse abducted her 14-year-old son, in Japan. Although the case technically does not fall under the Hague Convention, many former partners in the nations, whether they are Japanese or foreigners, experience difficulty getting access to their children after they divorce of break up.

Kirsten said she was granted legal guardianship of her son after she separated from her husband, but the boy never returned from a visit to his father in 2007. Her former husband held their son for more than a year before the courts acknowledged he should be returned to his mother.

“I used to respect my dad and looked forward to seeing him on the weekends with my sister. But one time I went to my dad’s without my sister and was told that I would no longer be able to see my mother. I was really shocked,” said Kirsten’s son, who wished to remain anonymous.

The boy said he spent that year with his father looking forward to the postcards that his mother regularly sent him.

“I was very confused about the decisions my dad made. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be with my mother,” he said.

But after they were reunited, he said he was also able to gradually rebuild his relationship with his father.

Akiko Ohnogi, a psychologist who specializes in child and family counseling and has worked on many child abduction cases, stressed the importance of maintaining healthy relationships with both parents.

Such relations have “an impact on (the child’s) entire life — it’s not just something that happens during childhood and eventually goes away,” he said.

“The attachment to both parents determines how children view themselves, how they view interpersonal relationships and their general world view.”

Other panelists at the seminar included Colin P.A. Jones, a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto and an expert on international child abductions.

The seminar was jointly organized by child rights advocates John Gomez and David Hearn, who directed the movie “From the Shadows” on the theme of international and domestic parental abductions, and which is currently in postproduction. The event was supported by the Harvard Club of Japan.

A work in progress version of “From the Shadows,” a documentary about family child abductions in Japan, will be screened in Tokyo on April 9 at 6:00 PM.  This is being supported by the Harvard Club of Japan and will be held at the Tokyo Foundation (map).

There will also be a seminar earlier in the day starting at 1:00 pm. Dr. Colin Jones and Dr. Akiko Ohnogi will be presenting and it is shaping up to be a very educational day with many perspectives to be shared, and ideas to be exchanged.

The 4,000 yen charge for the film screening will go to cover the cost of the venue and also fund our final stages of post-production, notably the online edit and the sound mix. If you would like to attend one or both events, please RSVP to john Gomez at: john.gomez.83@post.harvard.edu .

Here is a video invitation to the screening:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAv5pcqWogY&feature=youtu.be