The story of heroic Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara has become increasingly well-known since the Japanese government decided to come out of its shell and honor him in 2000. Known as the “Japanese Schindler,” Sugihara was the Japanese consul in Lithuania in 1939, just as the Nazis started advancing across Europe. Jewish refugees found themselves trapped in the country and facing certain death. Desperate, they turned to Sugihara to issue them transit visas to Japan. These would allow them to travel across the Soviet Union and though Japan to freedom. Against the orders of his government, Sugihara issued over 2,000 visas, saving over 6,000 people.
Director Cellin Gluck’s comprehensive historical pic details the varied career of multilingual Sugihara and the people who helped him. Though heavy-handed and tear-jerking at times, the flick captures the zeitgeist of the era and intense humanity of Sugihara (Toshiaki Karasawa) as well as his wife Yukiko (Koyuki), who consulted with her husband. Well worth a look, and for a more factual take see the PBS documentary Conspiracy of Kindness. Japanese title: Sugihara Chiune. In Japanese and English. (139 min)