Clint Eastwood (left) accepted the Berkeley Japan New Vision Award from Professor Duncan Williams at the Berkeley Art Museum on Friday, Jan. 23. (Peg Skorpinski photo)

Center for Japanese Studies makes Clint Eastwood's day

Actor/director accepts first annual 'New Vision' award

| 28 January 2009

scene from Letters from Iwo JimaA scene from Letters From Iwo Jima.

In his 2006 films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, director Clint Eastwood told the story of one of the most gruesome World War II battles from both the American and Japanese points of view. Until then, Hollywood had portrayed the Japanese soldiers who were defending the island of Iwo Jima against the U.S. military as simply the enemy, a foreign force to subdue and defeat. Eastwood took a decidedly different approach, depicting ordinary Japanese foot soldiers with humanity and sympathy.

"Telling both sides of the story provided an opportunity to make a statement about the futility of war," Eastwood explained to a packed house at the Pacific Film Archive last Friday night, following a screening of Letters From Iwo Jima. Eastwood was on campus to receive the inaugural Berkeley Japan New Vision Award from the Center for Japanese Studies, which had organized the evening as part of its 50th-anniversary celebration.

Duncan Williams, professor of East Asian languages and culture and director of the center, presented Eastwood with the award in a brief ceremony at the Berkeley Art Museum after the screening's Q&A session. Williams singled out the director's "willingness to embrace the perspective of the enemy in this case Japanese soldiers." Williams added: "By directing the film entirely in Japanese, and using Japanese actors despite not being fluent in Japanese, [Eastwood] demonstrated by example the kind of cross-cultural cooperation and understanding that can be brought about by an enduring act of imagination."

In his acceptance speech, Eastwood said, "I hope that these pictures will show through example that people can get along in this world, and misunderstandings and sometimes poor politics on all sides can get you into trouble." And then the Hollywood icon, who's directed more than 30 films, noted, "I don't think I ever enjoyed making a film any more than I did Letters From Iwo Jima."