Way back in 2014, we told you about a new documentary film then in production called Far West. The brainchild of director James Payne, the feature length project told the story of how audiences in Japan have become enthralled with American bluegrass and country music, through interviews with artists, fans, and venue operators, plus footage from clubs and outdoor festivals.
Released in 2017, Far Western picked up a number of awards in the US and Europe on the the film festival circuit, and very positive reviews.
Payne first saw the Japanese passion for American music when he hired on to create a documentary for the 2007 Japanese tour by Kyle Dillingham & Horseshoe Road, a bluegrass/Americana act from Oklahoma City. During that trip, the reaction of fans to this lively music, along with their deep awareness and appreciation for its history, left a strong impression on him, which led to his desire to capture all that on film.
On the Far Western web site, they describe the film thusly…
Far Western is a feature documentary film that tells the phenomenal story of the transplant of American country music to post-World War II Japan. Nearly 70 years later, for a devoted group the music has become a lifelong obsession. Part music history and part character portrait, Far Western is told through the lives of musicians, fans, and live-music venue owners. Set both in modern Japan and the American South, the film explores the uncanny ability of a simple form of music to cross geographic and language barriers, forming a strange cultural bridge between the two countries. Now, these Japanese musicians have made their own pilgrimages back to America, to the birthplace of the music, playing in honky-tonks and festivals in America.
Here’s the trailer.
Payne was assisted on this project by cinematographer David McMurray and editor/producer Matt Leach.
Bluegrass fans wherever they live owe it to themselves to watch Far Western, to see how a very different culture has embraced this music we love just as fully as if it had emerged there in Japan.