Some Divine Wind

Director: Roddy Bogawa

Institute History

  • 1992 Sundance Film Festival


Ben, the restless central character in Roddy Bogawa’s first feature, is a young man of mixed parentage whose father was part of a World War II American bombing mission that destroyed his Japanese mother’s village, killing her entire family. His father has kept this information a secret for twenty years; in finally confessing it, he suffers a breakdown, at the same time that Ben is struggling to reconcile his own conflicting loyalties. Ben, played with minimalist cool by Benjamin Tu, is aloof and somewhat diffident in his relationship with the accommodating Helen, whose fascination with Japanese literature and culture has either prompted, or been prompted by, their involvement. Her enthusiastic immersion in all things Japanese—to the point of having the word “excess” tattooed in Japanese on her stomach—is in sharp contrast with Ben’s obsessional attempts to deal with the tension between his own assimilation into the American mainstream and the definition of his cultural identity. The film is structured in loose, sometimes-looping fragments where Bogawa establishes the present through mundane domestic sequences, scenes set in hip San Diego haunts, and diary confessions, and layers the past by using archival war footage, home movies of a Japanese childhood, and images and icons which expose the complex postwar relationship between the Japanese and the Americans. Bogawa employs a literal road-movie motif when Ben takes to the freeway on his motorcycle, but the film’s route of inquiry is actually interior. Some Divine Wind is a rough translation of “kamikaze,” to the Japanese a reference to the “divine wind” sent by God to destroy the invading forces of Genghis Khan. To Americans the word “kamikaze” calls up images of the Japanese suicide pilots of World War II. Both meanings have relevance to the film, as cultural reflections of incomprehension, divinity, life and death.

— Marian Luntz

Screening Details

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