Shinada & Doumae Having Dinner together in Tokyo
A ruthless hit man and an arrogant thief for the yakuza (Japan’s Mafia) volunteer in Japan’s radioactive disaster zone and find redemption.
A story of finding beauty in the rubble, 2 Criminals is a narrative film inspired by true events. The story is based on interviews with former yakuza members Doumae and Shinada.
2 Criminals is an unusual film in the organized crime genre. It features the tattoos, revenge, and finger-cutting typical of yakuza movies, but it has another facet that sets it apart: redemption.
The earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters that ravaged Japan in 2011 affected everyone in the small, island nation – including Doumae and Shinada — and the two former gangsters began serving survivors of the disaster. Interviews with the men formed the basis of 2 Criminals, and the result is a riveting story that proves that any life is capable of being redeemed.
The Backstory (by Producer Paul Nethercott)
I’ve lived in Japan for over 25 years where I serve as a missionary. The core of my mission is to bring hope to the people of the great nation of Japan.
When disaster struck on March 11, 2011, I was living a comfortable life with my wife and daughter in Tokyo. All of a sudden, the news was full of scenes of utter destruction up north. Tokyo was affected too: cell phones didn’t work, there was no food available in stores, no gasoline, and power outages were common. However, the people up north, in Tohoku, were dealing with far greater challenges than we were.
Paul Nethercott interviewing Mr. Shinada
Very quickly, the situation at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima became dire. The Internet was flooded with reports claiming that large portions of Japan would be a nuclear wasteland. The area around the nuclear power plant was evacuated. Many foreigners packed up and left Japan. My family and I had to decide, “do we stay, or do we go?” After researching on the Internet and seeking professional advice, we decided to stay. And I am so glad we did.
I wanted to help so three days after the giant quake, I began volunteering with CRASH Japan. I did so in response to a call put out by CRASH Japan’s founder, Jonathan Wilson. CRASH became my platform and my passion. Doing disaster relief work was a way of finding meaning in the mess.
My work for CRASH lasted for most of two years. I got to meet a lot of great people at CRASH including veteran missionaries, Japanese pastors, and many amazing young adults. In Tokyo and up north in the disaster zone, hundreds of people did all that they could to help. The dedication of the workers was amazing. And through working together, united by a powerful vision, we accomplished far more than I dreamed we could.
My role at CRASH early on was primarily in fundraising, but later — as chief of public relations — I was in charge of both fundraising and producing public media. We needed a capable filmmaker, so I asked Matthew T. Burns to join my team. Three weeks later, Matthew came to Japan to work with CRASH. Just three days after he arrived in Japan, Matthew was on his first trip to the disaster zone.
Shinada & Mathew Burns
Over the next fourteen months Matthew and I made many trips north to report on the work of CRASH Japan. Matthew was a joy to work with and did a stellar job of directing, shooting, and editing our videos. CRASH One Year Anniversary and “Serving Through Tradition” are two of my favorites.
A year after the disaster, I made a collaborative trip to the disaster zone with a film crew from 7Media. It was during this trip, in the city of Iwaki, which is only a few miles south of the stricken nuclear power plant, that we met and interviewed former Yakuza members Doumae and Shinada. Hearing their amazing stories motivated Matthew and me to begin work on a film inspired by their lives.
I’ve produced numerous short films and videos but 2 Criminals is my first feature-length film. The journey is proving to be a grand adventure with rich rewards and many difficult challenges to overcome. The Lord of the Rings story comes to mind often because the journey of Frodo and his band mirrors my journey. Frodo had a mission.
A mission that he really didn’t know how he was going to accomplish. Through providence, faith, and with the help of many friends he eventually reached his goal.
2 Criminals Film Poster
Almost two years of incredibly difficult disaster relief work was valuable for learning how to take problems in stride and find a way to keep moving forward.
Following in the revered footsteps of storytellers like C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Flannery O’Connor and Japan’s Ayako Miura, the 2 Criminals film team aims to tell an entertaining story that is so compelling that it impacts the nation of Japan.
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