World Premiere of Film on Sugihara to be Held in Kaunas


The world premiere of Persona Non Grata, a new film about the famous Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, will be held in Kaunas, at the historical Romuva cinema (Laisvės al. 54, Kaunas), on 6 p.m., 13 October. This will be the first exclusive opportunity to not only see the movie but also to meet with its American director Cellin Gluck and the main actors Toshiaki Karasawa and Koyuki.

The audience in Lithuania will be the first in the world to see the film, two months ahead of Japan, as the Tokyo premiere is set in December. The movie will be shown in the original language (Japanese and English) with Lithuanian subtitles. The screening is free of charge. The start of the film is at 6 p.m., the doors will open at 5 p.m.

Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese Vice-Consul in Lithuania who lived in Kaunas during the period of 1939–1940. While residing there, he saved 6000 Jews without regard to his risk in disobeying the assignment of Japanese government: he issued exit visas to Japan, which allowed them to flee from the Holocaust and the Nazi occupation. Currently his former residence in Kaunas is known as the Sugihara House, a historical building and museum.

According to the producer Nobuyuki Iinuma, the film, which is titled Persona Non Grata in Lithuania (Chiune Sugihara in Japan), is based on these historical facts.

“Although 2015 marks the 70th anniversary since the end of World War II, there still have been many disputes and refugee problems all over the world. I strongly feel the destiny in the fact that we can have a World Premiere Screening in Kaunas, Lithuania, where Chiune Sugihara issued visas, in the year of the milestone, and I sincerely hope many of you could join the screening”, the film’s producer said.

Persona Non Grata is directed by American filmmaker Cellin Gluck and features an international cast composed of Japanese, Polish, French and Russian actors. Chiune Sugihara is played by Japanese actor Toshiaki Karasawa, while his wife is portrayed by Koyuki, who is known mainly for the lead female role in The Last Samurai. The film spans a period of over 20 years from the 1930s until the 1950s in Europe, Asia and North America. It was filmed entirely in Poland, mainly with Polish crew.

The movie is hosted by the Centre for Asian Studies of VMU. According to the head of the centre Dr. Aurelijus Zykas, the filmmakers came to Lithuania in mid-September, looking for an appropriate place for the world premiere. With the help from the centre, after considering a number of various locations, they eventually chose the Romuva movie theatre in Kaunas. 

“This is the oldest operating cinema in Lithuania, which opened its doors to the public in 1939, when Sugihara lived in Kaunas. The film’s makers were impressed by the cozy, authentic atmosphere of the theatre and the helpfulness of the staff of the Centre for Asian Studies and the students who will also be coordinating the event”, Dr. Zykas said.

The premiere is organized with the help from the VMU Centre for Asian Studies, the Sugihara Foundation – Diplomats for Life, Kaunas City Municipality, the Japanese Embassy in Lithuania, and the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Japan.

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