Movie, Hula Girls (Hula Girl in Japanese), 2006, 121 min
In 1965 the planned closing of a coal mine in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture will put 2,000 people out of work with devastating effects on the community. The mining company plans to build the Hawaiian Center to promote tourism, but the idea meets with resistance by the community's union families who boycott the effort. However, a few of the young women in Joban see the call for dancers to possibly provide a more promising future. Yoshimoto Norio is put in charge of organizing the center, with Hirayama Madoka, a professional dancer fleeing creditors in Tokyo hired to train the dancers. Kimiko, her friend Sanae, and Sayuri are amongst the handful first showing up for lessons but soon others join them. When Kimiko's mother, Chiyo, discovers that she has skipped school classes to learn dancing the two argue and Kimiko leaves home. Her brother Yojiro, one of the newly out of work miners, comes to be supportive of her dancing as he becomes protective of Madoka. The girls start to tour neighboring communities and dance to promote the center, getting more proficient in the process. After secretly seeing Kimiko practice, and how good she has become, Chiyo helps gather heaters to save palm trees imported from Taiwan from dying from the cold. Her change of heart as head of the union's woman's organization shifts the sympathies of the community as the opening of the center nears. Madoka has molded coal miner's daughters into professional dancers, and Kimiko performs a standout solo dance at the opening.
A delightful & endearing film. Hula Girls is another example of the quality, vibrancy and most important of all, the originality that can still be found in the Japanese (& French) film industries (so unlike Hollywood which is mired in re-makes) Hula Girls has many of the very typically Japanese quirkiness which mixes the history & culture of Japan with genuine humour & real human feelings combining all into a wholly entertaining film which has all the hallmarks of that other fabulous Japanese film, "Shall We Dance" A great cast which had some solid veteran performances and also showcased some very promising young talent and faces to look out for in the future. Stunning dance routines and a delightful soundtrack by Shimabukuro Jake on the ukulele. This is a film not to be missed and one to treasure on DVD.