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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lost Films From Japan Resurface In Moscow

TOKYO -- After 50 years listed as a casualty of war, the Japanese film classic "Oya" ("The Parent") is finally on the way home.


It was snatched from Japan by the Soviet Union with hundreds of other film reels in the dying days of World War II and taken to Moscow.


Three years of meticulous searching through dusty film cans in Russia's National Film Archive have finally unearthed "The Parent" and scores of other Japanese films previously believed to have been lost.


The silent movie, made in 1929, was seized as part of the spoils of war by the Soviet Union in 1945 from Japanese occupation forces in northeastern China.


According to Japanese researchers who worked with Russian authorities trawling through the Russian archive, about 1,400 reels of seized film from about 230 movies have been found so far.


Among the films were a number of movies such as "The Parent" for which all prints and negatives had been lost in Japan.


"The movies stored in the Russian archives provide an enormous wealth of information for Japanese film history," said Tomonori Saiki, a curator at the film center in Tokyo's National Museum of Art.


"The Parent," which will be shown in Japan for the first time in more than half a century at the Tokyo International Film Festival in November, was the first movie of famed Japanese film director Hiroshi Shimizu.


The film is actually a government propaganda piece to get people to take out insurance, but it is still a significant part of Japanese movie history, said Mikiko Tomita, who started the Russian film archive probe in 1994.


"Most of the film consists of movie fragments," Tomita said. "But about half of the movies that have been discovered in Russia no longer exist in Japan."


She said about 100 films could be pieced together from the fragments in the archives.


Tomita is on the staff of the Tokyo film festival and is overseeing the showing of four of the films found in the Russian archive.


Apart from "The Parent," the films include the 1935 silent movie "Bakudan Hanayome" ("The Explosion Bride") from Japanese movie house Shochiku, "Oichi no Kata" ("The Person from the City") and "Osaka Chonin" ("The Merchant of Osaka").


The films were seized after Soviet troops stormed across the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo in northeast China in 1945 as Japan's short-lived empire crumbled.


Although Soviet troops thought little of the Japanese films, Russian film authorities asked them to bring seized reels back to Moscow, where they were put in storage.


In contrast to the often acrimonious negotiations over the return of looted art work, Russian and Japanese authorities have cooperated in recovering the Japanese movies since Tomita began her work in the archives in 1994.


The existence of the films in Russia has been known for decades, but it was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union that Japanese researchers could look for the films.


A few of the movies have been returned to Japan and others are being jointly restored.


Authorities on both sides are working on what to do with the bulk of the seized films.


"I am just happy that these films will be shown again," said Tomita.