‘Old Bear Hunter’ to Be Screened at WLA UMC

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Ko Nishimura plays the title role in “Matagi.”

West Los Angeles United Methodist Church, 1913 Purdue Ave. in Los Angeles, begins its seventh season of screening thought-provoking Japanese and Asian films on the last Friday of each month at 7:30 p.m.

The screenings are an opportunity to enjoy the collaborative nature of Japan’s traditions, history and culture through award-winning contemporary and rare classic feature films.

This month’s film, to be shown on May 26, is “Matagi” or “The Old Bear Hunter” (1982, 103 minutes), directed by Toshio Goto (who co-wrote the screenplay with Atsushi Yamatoya) and starring Ko Nishimura, Junzaburo Han, Mihoko Fujita and Yoshio Inaba.

“Matagi” is the Ainu name for “man of winter” or “hunter.” This special breed of hunters can trace their lineage from Japan’s medieval period. They hunt bear, deer and the near-extinct Japanese serow (kamoshika), a mountain goat-antelope that is a National Living Treasure in Japan.

This film is the story of a legendary 63-year-old hunter who is a master of his craft and one of the last of his kind. Accompanied by his shiba dog, he only takes one bullet for his rifle as he hunts in the beautiful snow-covered Shirakami mountains that straddle more than 600 square miles of Aomori and Akita prefectures.

On one such excursion, he accidentally kills a mother bear who has a cub. He takes the cub and raises it. When the cub reaches maturity, the hunter releases it into the mountains. There is a spiritual connection between them. Later, stories appear about a huge bear hunting humans. The hunter knows that the bear is his, for it has no natural fear of humans. He knows what he must do to make amends.

In Japanese with English subtitles. Free and open to the public. Parking is available.

For more information on the church, call (310) 479-1379 or visit http://wlaumc.com.

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