Minamata (film)

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Minamata
Minamata (film) poster.jpg
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byAndrew Levitas
Screenplay byDavid Kessler
Based on
Minamata
by
Produced by
  • Johnny Depp
  • Andrew Levitas
  • Sam Sarkar
  • Kevan Van Thompson
Starring
CinematographyBenoît Delhomme
Edited byNathan Nugent
Music byRyuichi Sakamoto
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release dates
  • February 21, 2020 (2020-02-21) (Berlinale)
  • August 13, 2021 (2021-08-13) (United Kingdom)
  • February 11, 2022 (2022-02-11) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes[1]
Countries
  • United States
  • United Kingdom
Languages
  • English
  • Japanese
Budget$11-13 million
Box office$1.7 million[2]

Minamata is a 2020 drama film directed by Andrew Levitas, based on the book of the same name by Aileen Mioko Smith and Eugene Smith. The film stars Johnny Depp (who also produced) as Eugene Smith, an American photographer who documented the effects of mercury poisoning on the citizens of Minamata, Kumamoto, Japan. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 21, 2020. It was released in the United States on February 11, 2022, by Samuel Goldwyn Films. At the 94th Academy Awards in 2022, the film ranked third place in the Oscars Fan Favorite contest.

Plot

In 1971, the American photographer W. Eugene Smith, who was famous for his numerous "photographic essays" published in Life, has become a recluse. While on a separate assignment, a passionate Japanese translator, Aileen, urges Smith to visit Minamata to photograph and document the disease. Smith is finally convinced to do his best to unmask the devastating effects of corporate greed, an accomplice of the local police and government.

Smith travels to Minamata in Japan to document the devastating effect of mercury poisoning and Minamata disease in coastal communities. This disease is caused by industrial pollution linked to the activities of the chemical company Chisso. Armed with only his Minolta camera against a powerful company, Smith must win the trust of the broken community and find the images that will bring this story to the world. While there, Smith becomes the victim of severe reprisals. He is therefore urgently repatriated to the United States. However, this report will make him an icon of photojournalism.

Cast

  • Johnny Depp as W. Eugene Smith
  • Akiko Iwase as Masako Matsumura
  • Katherine Jenkins as Millie
  • Bill Nighy as Robert Hayes
  • Minami as Aileen Mioko Smith
  • Tadanobu Asano as Tatsuo Matsumura
  • Ryo Kase as Kiyoshi
  • Hiroyuki Sanada as Mitsuo Yamazaki
  • Jun Kunimura as Junichi Nojima
  • Yosuke Hosoi as Daiki
  • Lily Robinson as Diandra
  • Masayoshi Haneda as Enforcer
  • Tatsuya Hirano as Bodyguard
  • Kenta Ogawa as Patient
  • Shunsuke Okubo as Japanese Man
  • Koji Ono as Company Man
  • Bomber Hurley Smith as Chris Lee
  • Kotaro Suzuki as Central Pollution Board Member
  • Tatsuya Tagawa as Executive
  • Ana Trkulja as Japanese Buddhist at Protest
  • Ali Shams Noraei as Mr. Noraei

Production

On October 23, 2018, it was announced that Johnny Depp would star in the drama film as the photojournalist Eugene Smith and the film will be written and directed by Andrew Levitas.[3]

Filming began in January 2019, with Bill Nighy, Minami Hinase, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Ryo Kase and Jun Kunimura added to the cast. Filming took place in Japan, Serbia and Montenegro.[4]

Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto was hired to write the film's score.

Release

Minamata had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival on February 21, 2020.[5] In October 2020, MGM, through its relaunched American International Pictures banner, acquired US and Vertigo Releasing acquired UK distribution rights to the film. It was scheduled for release on February 5, 2021 in the US and on February 12, 2021 in the UK,[6][7] but it was postponed to an unspecified date and to August 13, respectively.[8][9]

On July 26, 2021, Levitas sent MGM a letter alleging that it had decided to "bury the film" in response to the decline in the public image of Depp, and urging MGM to give the film a wider distribution and promotion. An MGM spokesperson told Deadline, "Minamata continues to be among future AIP releases and at this time, the film's US release date is TBA."[8] On December 1, 2021, Iervolino & Lady Bacardi Entertainment and Samuel Goldwyn Films announced that they had acquired US distribution rights to the film from MGM and were planning to release it on December 15.[10] The release was later pushed back to February 11, 2022.[11]

The city of Minamata, Kumamoto, declined to lend its name as a supporter to a local screening held in August 2021 organized by volunteers, prior to the nationwide release of the film in Japan in September 2021. The city told The Asahi Shimbun that it was uncertain whether the film depicted historical events accurately and was conducive to dispelling discrimination and prejudice against patients. Kumamoto Prefecture, on the other hand, supported the screening.[12]

To date the film has grossed $1.7 million worldwide, on a budget of $11 to $13 million.[2]

Music

Minamata: Original Motion Picture Score
Film score by
ReleasedJuly 30, 2021
GenreOrchestral
Length62:03
LabelMilan Records

The film's score was composed by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Minamata's director Andrew Levitas said that "Ryuichi was my dream collaborator – he would be on any film – but on this mission in particular, there could be no one else…The music quite literally needed to represent both the absolute best of humanity as well as the worst…In my opinion, Ryuichi was able to elegantly ride this razor’s edge and deliver on this concept entirely".[13]

The soundtrack was released on vinyl on July 30, 2021.[14]

Tracklist:

  1. "Minamata Piano Theme" – 2:50
  2. "Into Japan" – 2:59
  3. "Landscape" – 4:18
  4. "The Boy" – 1:10
  5. "Chisso Co." – 2:08
  6. "Boy and Camera" – 1:35
  7. "Hidden Data" – 1:13
  8. "Blow Up" – 1:52
  9. "Rally and Persuasion" – 1:46
  10. "Meeting" – 1:08
  11. "Offer" – 5:32
  12. "Commitment" – 4:35
  13. "Fire" – 2:03
  14. "Sharing" – 1:23
  15. "Rising" – 1:45
  16. "Chisso Gate" – 4:23
  17. "Arson Man" – 2:26
  18. "Suicide" – 1:47
  19. "Mother and Child" – 2:29
  20. "Coda" – 5:47
  21. "Icon" – 2:16
  22. "One Single Voice" (performed by Katherine Jenkins) – 3:57

Reception

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 77% based on 44 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Heartfelt yet jumbled, Minamata pays uneven tribute to a remarkable real-life story better served by the documentary treatment."[15] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 55 out of 100, based on 14 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[16]

Jane Fredbury from The Canberra Times said that "Despite his outsize star profile, Depp manages to be convincing as a war-hardened photojournalist committed to exposing corporate crime, and doesn't distract from the issues", ultimately awarding the film four out of five stars.[17] Peter Debruge of Variety gave Minamata a positive review, calling it "impressive if somewhat less-than-nuanced" and mentioning that "Depp plays it surly throughout, dominating those around him".[18] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian said that "Minamata is a forthright, heartfelt movie, an old-fashioned 'issue picture' with a worthwhile story to tell about how communities can stand up to overweening corporations and how journalists dedicated to truthful news can help them" awarding the film three out of five stars.[19] Collider stated that Minamata is "well paced, beautifully filmed and does have an appealing classic feel to it, but it still lacks that spark to propel it from informative to all-consuming" while reporting that Depp "does manage to successfully convey the complexities of Eugene's current headspace and how this assignment unearths his early determination".[20] Sydney Morning Herald awarded the film four stars out of five stating Depp's performance "is full of grace and grit".[21]

Noel Murray of the Los Angeles Times mentioned that "Taken on its own merits — as an accessible if ahistorical dramatization of an environmental tragedy — “Minamata” does what it sets out to do very well" describing Depp as "quite good"[22] while The Wrap stated that "Moments of connection and the power of photography to tell a story shine through, though there are also instances where the cinematic storytelling becomes a bit heavy-handed" calling Depp's performance as "his most tender, most mature work in years".[23] Austin Chronicle reported that "Minamata" was "... a rare return to form for Depp"[24] while The Washington Post awarded the film two and a half stars out of four stating that "Levitas makes choices that distract from the central crisis. But when he pays attention to the victims, “Minamata” finally comes into focus".[25]

However, Kevin Maher of The Times (UK) awarded Minamata 2 stars out of 5 mentioning that "The professional redemption of Johnny Depp will have to wait",[26] while Deborah Young from The Hollywood Reporter wrote that "Director Andrew Levitas and his co-screenwriters dramatize a riveting story using a mass of groan-worthy genre clichés that ill-serve the truth they are trying to recreate".[27] She did give positive remarks about Depp's performance as "he effortlessly captures the bohemian contrariness of the brilliant war photographer Gene Smith as he approaches the end of his career plagued by debts, alcohol, nightmares and disillusionment".[28] The New York Times mentioned that "Minamata is often undermined by its protagonist, whose boorish ways clash with Japanese culture and distract from its central message".[29] while Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com stated that "Minamata is weighed down by self-important direction that loses the human beings in this story by prioritizing the headlines" although he praised Depp's performance by saying that "Leading man Johnny Depp is up to the challenge, and he gives a finely tuned performance here that kind of feels like his first "old man" turn" awarding the film ultimately two stars out of four.[30]

References

  1. ^ "Minamata". Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Minamata (2021)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  3. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (October 23, 2018). "Johnny Depp To Star As Photojournalist W. Eugene Smith In Thriller 'Minamata', HanWay To Launch Sales — AFM". Deadline. Retrieved October 23, 2018.
  4. ^ First Look At Johnny Depp As Photographer W. Eugene Smith In ‘Minamata’; Bill Nighy Joins Cast
  5. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (January 14, 2020). "Berlin Film Festival Adds Johnny Depp, Tilda Swinton, Jia Zhangke, Agnieszka Holland Movies & Hillary Clinton Docuseries". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  6. ^ Roxborough, Scott (October 8, 2020). "Johnny Depp Film 'Minamata' Sells Wide". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (October 30, 2020). "Johnny Depp Drama 'Minimata' Acquired By MGM; February 5 Release Set Through American International Pictures Label For Japan-Set Mercury Poisoning Scandal". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Fleming, Mike, Jr (July 26, 2021). "Did Johnny Depp's Fall From Grace Prompt MGM To "Bury" Japan Mercury Poisoning Drama 'Minamata'? Read Letter Director Andrew Levitas Sent To Studio". Deadline. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  9. ^ "'MINAMATA' will be released in cinemas across the UK & Ireland on 13 August 2021!". The Arts Shelf. July 6, 2021. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  10. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (December 1, 2021). "Johnny Depp Movie 'Minamata' Is Finally Getting A U.S. Release, But Not With MGM". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 2, 2021.
  11. ^ Riley, Jenelle (February 7, 2022). "Johnny Depp and Andrew Levitas Discuss Timeliness of 'Minamata' and Capturing the "Inner Light and Hope for Mankind"". Variety. Retrieved February 20, 2022.
  12. ^ Oku, Masamitsu (July 10, 2021). デップ主演映画上映、水俣市が後援拒否「制作意図不明」. The Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese). Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  13. ^ "Ryuichi Sakamoto: Minamata - Soundtrack".
  14. ^ "Ryuichi Sakamoto's Minamata score set for vinyl release". June 29, 2021.
  15. ^ "Minamata (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  16. ^ "Minamata Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  17. ^ "Depp shines in story of suffering". June 6, 2021.
  18. ^ "'Minamata': Film Review". February 21, 2020.
  19. ^ "Minamata review – Johnny Depp attempts redemption in heartfelt look at disaster that struck Japanese town". TheGuardian.com. February 21, 2020.
  20. ^ "Minamata Review: An OK Retelling of a Remarkable True Story". Collider. May 19, 2020.
  21. ^ "Whatever you think of him, Johnny Depp acts here with grace and grit". June 3, 2021.
  22. ^ "Review: 'Minamata' stars Johnny Depp in a redemption tale where the real star is the story". Los Angeles Times. February 10, 2022.
  23. ^ "'Minamata' Film Review: Johnny Depp Photographs Environmental Disaster in Urgent Biopic". February 10, 2022.
  24. ^ "Minamata". February 11, 2022.
  25. ^ "Johnny Depp dials down the ham in 'Minamata,' a true story of ecological disaster". The Washington Post. February 5, 2022.
  26. ^ Maher, Kevin. "Minamata review — Johnny Depp's professional redemption will have to wait".
  27. ^ "'Minamata': Film Review | Berlin 2020". The Hollywood Reporter. February 21, 2020.
  28. ^ "'Minamata': Film Review | Berlin 2020". The Hollywood Reporter. February 21, 2020.
  29. ^ León, Concepción de (February 10, 2022). "'Minamata' Review: A Crisis Slowly Revealed". The New York Times.
  30. ^ "Minamata movie review & film summary (2022) | Roger Ebert".

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