HEART OF THE COUNTRY is the story of Shinichi Yasutomo, the extraordinary principal of a rural elementary school in Kanayama, central Hokkaido, Japan. Yasutomo is a man driven by his vision for learning and his passion for educating the heart as well as the mind. The film follows Yasutomo, his teachers and staff, students and their families over the course of one entire school year.
The film is also the story of the families of Kanayama. Parents and elders of this once impoverished town embrace Yasutomo's vision, but not without wary glances back to the past. This small community, bound together by love for its children, is also defined by its journey through the cultural upheavals of postwar Japan.
Beyond intimate observation of everyday life, from morning gymnastics to the graduating ceremony, HEART OF THE COUNTRY takes viewers into the world of Japanese values, revealing how the school, the family and the community are bound together in a self-perpetuating relationship based upon obligation, mutual responsibility and trust.
"The visual impact, the characters, the calm pace and cumulative experience of the children, the school and teachers, Yasutomo and the community are terrific ... A gem."—Professor of Education Merry White, Boston University, author of The Japanese Educational Challenge
2000 Award of Commendation, Society for Visual Anthropology
2000 American Anthropological Association Film Festival
2000 Association for Asian Studies Film Festival
Golden Apple Award, 1998 National Educational Media Network Competition
1998 Margaret Mead Film Festival
Special Exhibition, 1998 Cinéma du Réel (Paris, France)
Special Exhibition, 1998 Pärnu Ethnographic & Documentary Film Festival (Tallin, Estonia)
Judge's Award, 1997 NorthWest Film Festival