Vatican, 6 February 2017 -- The 'Junkyo Kesshi Nihon Nijuroku seijin' (26 Holy Martyrs of Japan) movie directed in 1931 by Tomiyasu Ikeda in Japan, was shown with Italian subtitles in the Vatican Cinema Hall (Sala Cardinal Descur) on February 6 on the Liturgical Memory Day of the Martyrs of Japan with presence of many Salesians resident in Rome and three Cardinals - Filoni, Farina and Bertone.
Since the Salesian Congregation has entrusted its own Film Archive to the (Italian) National Film Archive (Archivio nazionale cinema d'impresa - Centro sperimentale di Cinematografia) for the conservation and restauration of old movie, this precious Japanese Martyrs movie is now available again to the public.
The movie is a perfect example of the 'jidai-geki' historical drama famous all around the world thanks to authors like Akira Kurosawa and Kenjji Mizoguchi. This story of Holy Martyrs anticipates 'The Silence' of Endo Shusako novel (Chinmoku) made a movie first in 1971 (Japan) by Masahiro Shinoda and recently by Martin Scorsese (USA, 2016).
A typical silent movie is located in 1597 and tells the story of the end of the first evangelization of Japan started in 1549 by Saint Francis Xavier. The movie is open with the landing of Spanish Franciscan Pedro Bautista from Manila and is ending with the Martyrdom of 6 Franciscan, 3 Jesuits and 17 lay person, among them also 4 children (26 Martyrs of Japan or St. Paul Miki and Companions).
The original version was scanned (4K) and restored in digital format by National Cinema Archive of Enterprises in Ivrea, Piedmont. with financial support of the Piedmont Region and Company of St. Paul. This film was originally distributed in Italy in 1935 by the Don Bosco Missions with a music composed by Salesian priest Alessandro De Bonis (1888-1965).
Related articles: The Silence and the tomb in Tokyo: AustraLasia4237 (II)
Fr. Alessandro de Bonis, SDB (1988-1965)