Japanese Actress Talks about Working on a Vietnamese Film

Actress Nakatani Akari, a foreigner in Vietnam, discussed the struggles of solitude in a biopic about Trinh Cong Son (1939-2001), one of the nation's most renowned musicians.

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Japanese Actress Shares Experiences of Acting in Vietnamese Film
Japanese actress Nakatani Akari talked about the difficulties of being alone as a foreigner in the movie ‘Em and Trinh’. Photo: Hoang Son

Appearing at a seminar during the inaugural Da Nang Asian Film Festival (DANAFF I) on May 12, Japanese actress Nakatani Akari shared her excitement at having the opportunity to work with an all-Vietnamese cast and crew in the movie ‘Em and Trinh’. The seminar was held to share the success stories of the Japanese film industry and promote collaboration with Vietnamese counterparts.

The film explores the life and career of Son, a gifted songwriter in Vietnamese contemporary music, from his early years to middle age. ‘Em and Trinh’ chronicles the songwriter’s romantic relationships with some of his “muses”, which motivated him to create many beloved romantic songs.

Nakatani revealed that after completing her degree program in Vietnam, she chose to remain in the country, according to Thanh Nien newspaper.

I am incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to live with a Vietnamese family for the past four years. Thanks to this experience, I have become very familiar with the everyday life of Vietnamese families. Recently, I was even luckier to be cast in the movie ‘Em and Trinh’ to portray the character of Michiko,” she expressed.

Japanese Actress Shares Experiences of Acting in Vietnamese Film
“I had no acting experience at that time and also felt quite nervous when I learned that this is a big movie project about a Vietnamese music icon,” she said. Photo: Hoang Son

Nakatani stated that, despite having lived in Vietnam for four years, her command of the Vietnamese language still falls short of enabling her to fully comprehend the country’s culture and take on the roles of Em and Trinh. “I have dedicated a significant amount of time to refining both my Vietnamese language skills and my acting abilities,” the actress remarked.

Given that this was her first film and she was the only foreigner in the crew, Nakatani initially felt very nervous. “Although I have been studying Vietnamese and living here for a while, the language is incredibly difficult. So, I was really anxious while working with the team. Fortunately, everyone from the director to the producer were really kind to me,” she said.

According to the actress, Vietnamese people have a unique way of communicating, especially in their friendly manner of conversation.

In Japan, it’s often said that the way of thinking of Vietnamese and Japanese people is somewhat similar. Despite the differences between Vietnam and Japan, I believe it will be easier to collaborate than it would be with other countries,” Nakatani remarked.

Japanese Actress Shares Experiences of Acting in Vietnamese Film
Japanese professor Michiko Yoshii (left) depicted in Em Và Trịnh. Photo Galaxy M&E

Director Phan Gia Nhat Linh revealed that the production team initially wanted to find a Vietnamese actor to play the role of Michiko, since it would be quite challenging to find a Japanese actor who could speak Vietnamese fluently.

However, the film crew had to go the extra mile to find a suitable Japanese actor for the role of Michiko. Interestingly, they discovered that there are a plethora of talented Japanese actors in both Japan and Vietnam eager to take on the part.

“Nevertheless,” remarked Director Phan Gia Nhat Linh, “these Japanese actors are not proficient in Vietnamese. Fortunately, Akari was selected due to her fluency in the language and her acting ability.”

The two eventually become romantically involved, and Son, a music teacher, helps Michiko learn Vietnamese. However, their relationship is threatened when Son is forced to return to his homeland.

One of the primary plot developments of the film is the romantic love story between Son and Michiko Yoshii. She is a university student in Paris, France, in the late 1980s, and she falls in love with Vietnamese culture, language, and people, particularly with Son’s music. The two eventually become romantically involved, and Son, a music teacher, helps Michiko learn Vietnamese. However, their relationship is threatened when Son is forced to return to his homeland, Vietnam.

They quickly fell in love and began dreaming of marriage. Unfortunately, their plans were derailed due to conflicting ideas about wedding customs and ceremonies.

Son and Michiko met in high school and immediately hit it off. They shared a deep bond that was rare for their age. Despite their young age, they knew that their love was real. They spent almost every moment together, dreaming of a future together.

But their love was not to be. Michiko’s family had arranged for her to marry another man, and she felt obligated to honor her family’s wishes. Despite their protests, Michiko was forced to end her relationship with Son and marry the other man.

Heartbroken, Son was left alone with nothing but memories of the time they had shared. The two never saw each other again, but the love story of Son and Michiko has remained a classic of romantic tragedy. To this day, their story is often compared to that of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, whose love transcended all obstacles.

The love story of Son and Michiko is one that has been likened to the classic romance of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. After meeting in high school, the two immediately hit it off and formed a unique bond that was rare for their age. They spent almost every moment together, dreaming of a future together. Unfortunately, Michiko’s family had arranged for her to marry another man, and she had no choice but to obey their wishes, leaving Son heartbroken and alone. Despite the tragedy of their situation, the story of Son and Michiko remains a timeless classic of romantic love, and still serves as an inspiration to those who have ever been in love.

Born in the city of Hue, Vietnam, in 1939, Son became a beloved singer in 1957. His musical legacy is remembered through his classic albums of romantic love songs, such as “Diem Xua” (meaning “Diem, My Cherished Old Flame”) and “Ru Tinh” (meaning “Lullaby to Love”), both of which were released in the 1960s and 1970s, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

Diem Xua is an iconic song in Japan, having been introduced by renowned singer Khanh Ly in Osaka in 1970. Since then, the song has been adapted and written in Japanese, titled Utsukushii Mukashi, and has become one of Japan’s most beloved love songs, making it into the country’s top 10 favorite songs.

Son went on to become the most renowned songwriter of anti-war music in southern Vietnam, with his renowned collections Ca Khuc Da Vang (Yellow Skin Song), Kinh Viet Nam (Vietnamese Prayer) and Ta Phai Thay Mat Troi (We Must See The Sunlight) being widely celebrated.

He passed away in Ho Chi Minh City in 2001 after suffering from a long-term illness.

Hannah Nguyen