Roger Pulvers' Star Sand premieres at Canberra International Film Festival
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Roger Pulvers' Star Sand premieres at Canberra International Film Festival

Roger Pulvers is a man of many talents. He has been the author of more than 45 books in Japanese and English as well as a playwright, theatre director, journalist and translator. Over the past four decades he has translated prose, drama and poetry from Japanese, Russian and Polish; and his plays have been widely performed in Australia, Japan and the United States.

Last year he added yet another accomplishment, making his cinematic directorial debut last year at the age of 72. His film Star Sand, which he also adapted from his novel, will have its Australian premiere this month at the Canberra International Film Festival.

Star Sand: Shinnosuke Mitsushima  and Brandon McClelland.

Star Sand: Shinnosuke Mitsushima and Brandon McClelland.

Star Sand takes place during the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945 when a young Japanese woman becomes involved in the lives of two deserting soldiers - one American, one Japanese.

"The three of them develop a very special bond that surpasses gender and nationality, Pulvers says.

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Brandon McClelland and Lisa Oda in Star Sand.

Brandon McClelland and Lisa Oda in Star Sand.

He says Star Sand is more than a war film.

"It's about non-violence and how do you confront evil without becoming evil yourself."

"It's never too late," Pulvers says of his age and his new cinematic venture.

"It wasn't an impulsive move."

It took 11 drafts, written in Japanese, by the time the script was ready for production.

"It takes great skill to write a successful film script - you have to be able to visualise," Pulvers says.

Then came the search for financing.

"It took two and a half years to get the picture up," Pulvers says. The low-budget movie, a Japanese-Australian co-production, was made with non-government funds. One of the sponsors was the International Screen Academy in Sydney. It was filmed in a little over two weeks in Okimawa and Tokyo in June 2016.

Although he hadn't directed before, Pulvers had previous film experience: he was assistant to director Nagisa Oshima on the 1983 movie Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence and co-wrote the script for Ashita e no Yuigon (Best Wishes for Tomorrow), for which he won the Crystal Simorgh Prize for Best Script at the 27th Fajr​ International Film Festival in Tehran.

Pulvers' facility for languages was developed over many years both at universities and through living in different countries. He studied Russian in the US, lived in Poland in the mid-1960s and studied Polish cinema, moved to Japan in 1967 to avoid being drafted in the Vietnam War and in April 1972 moved to Canberra to take up a job at the ANU teaching Japanese.

"I loved Canberra - I stayed there until January 1980," he says.

He was one of the demonstrators outside Old Parliament HOuse when the Whitlam government was dismissed in November 1975/

"He was one of my heroes."

Pulvers says, "I was active in the theatre there with Ralph Wilson - we worked together."

He wrote plays that were performed in the capital and in Adelaide and Melbourne and wrote articles for The Canberra Times. He moved Melbourne in 1980. He's continued an international life and career since then but considers his return to Canberra for the Australian premiere of Star Sand "like a homecoming.

"I'm extremely thrilled."

Star Sand is on at the National Film and Sound Archive on Sunday, October 29 at 6pm. ciff.com.au.

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Times.

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