In the autumn of 1941, Grover Ohta, an educated and gentlemanly first-generation Japanese American, arrives in the small town of Salty Creek, South Carolina. The tight-knit, God-fearing community is unsettled by the “yellow foreigner” and looks upon him with disdain and suspicion. Iconoclastic Sophie, a lonely but comely spinster, is cautiously drawn to Ohta. Connected by their love of painting and each nursing painful memories, the two find themselves attracted to each other. While gossip about Ohta and Sophie’s relationship spreads through the disapproving town, news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor comes, and Ohta becomes even more of a target.
Director Maggie Greenwald returns to the Sundance Film Festival (Songcatcher) with an elegant historical drama and moving love story. Takashi Yamaguchi appealingly plays Ohta, while three strong female characters—and performances—create the driving force of the film: Sophie (Julianne Nicholson), Anne (Margo Martindale), the guarded but kind widow who takes Ohta in, and Salome (Lorraine Toussaint), Anne’s intelligent, all-seeing domestic help. As Southern women unwilling to accept their lot in society, they fight for their beliefs and dignity against an inescapable reality.
Critically acclaimed filmmaker Maggie Greenwald has a long history with the Sundance Film Festival. The Kill-Off screened in competition in 1990; Songcatcher, starring Janet McTeer and Aidan Quinn, won a Special Jury Award for Special Ensemble Performance in 2000; and The Ballad of Little Jo, starring Suzy Amis and Ian McKellan, played in 1993. She has directed numerous episodic shows and television films, including What Makes a Family, a GLAAD Media Award winner.