Wings of Defeat is a feature-length documentary exploring the human experience of surviving kamikaze pilots. When director, Risa Morimoto, learned that her beloved uncle had trained as a ...
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Wings of Defeat is a feature-length documentary exploring the human experience of surviving kamikaze pilots. When director, Risa Morimoto, learned that her beloved uncle had trained as a kamikaze pilot in his youth but carried that secret to his grave, she decided to retrace his footsteps and ask surviving pilots about their provocative experiences. Sixty years later, survivors in their eighties tell us about their training, their mindsets, their experiences in a kamikaze cockpit and what it meant to survive when thousands of their fellow pilots crashed to their deaths. Their stories insist we set aside our preconceptions to relive their all too human experiences with them. Ultimately, they help us question what responsibilities a government at war has to its soldiers and to its people. Written by
I had the chance to attend the world première of Wings of Defeat tonight in Toronto at the Hot Docs international documentary film festival. It is a brilliant and very personal exposé about the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II who are still alive today to tell their story.
This film would have been impossible without the unique bicultural perspective of the two main women who made the film. Director Risa Morimoto grew up in the USA as the daughter of Japanese parents. Producer Linda Hoaglund grew up in rural Japan as the daughter of two American missionaries.
When Risa Morimoto discovers that her late uncle was a kamikaze pilot, she begins the personal exploration and journey to learn about what he would have experienced and felt in this period of Japanese culture and history. The bulk of the film consists of never-seen-before interviews with Japanese and American WWII veterans and survivors who are now at the sunset of their life and expose their personal stories, thoughts and feelings. There is one anime segment that helps dramatize and put you in the shoes of one of the kamikaze survivors as he tells his story.
It also shows footage and headlines from the media of the time, to put you in context of the events as they were spun at the time, from both sides. At the time of the kamikaze, Japan was clearly losing the war and had no chance to win, yet Emperor Showa (Hirohito) pressed on. Every pilot in Japan was completely certain about his impending demise, and eventually every single citizen was made to be a kamikaze.
At the end, the film leaves a very powerful message about the indispensable human need for peace.
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