Competition Film / North America Premiere
The Volunteer, for Real?
95min. / 2010
Director: Tsuyoshi Satoda
When Hiroaki Ishimatsu begins to wonder if there’s more to his privileged life than sleeping in class, hitting on girls, and partying, he decides to start a volunteer club called GRAPHIS, a non-profit student group which raises the funds to build a school in Cambodia for impoverished kids. Upon observing the conditions of Cambodian healthcare, Ishimatsu, a medical student and budding doctor, decides that he also wants to build a clinic for rural Cambodian residents, an undertaking with considerably more obstacles and costs.
Director Tsuyoshi Satoda focuses his documentary on the efforts of the volunteer group to raise this money primarily through dance club fundraisers, but the true revelations in the film come during its second half, when we begin to see the fruits of the students’ hardship and labor, but also a real commitment to their cause. The efforts of GRAPHIS were published in a best-selling book and subsequently made into a feature-length narrative film by Toei Studios. For these heavily manicured, impeccably coiffed kids, seeing beyond their own lives – and exerting effort for a visible goal – is a challenge all its own. Satoda, however, gets insightful truths from these students, who clearly feel an emptiness in their lives and try their hardest to fill it with something important, lasting, and more durable than a fleeting night out in a Shibuya disco.