Who would have guessed that in Japan, especially post-WWII, American country music, including Bluegrass, will have not just fans, but actual talented Japanese players? Yet there it is, as documented in this well-made documentary.
Directed by James Payne, shot by David McMurry, and edited and produced by Matt Leach, Far Western had me tapping my feet to the rhythm of its music, with a smile across my face the entire length of the movie; and I am not even a country music fan! There is something compelling about people who love what they do, especially with it being so out of place.
What I liked about the film was that, aside of the curiosity of how did country music took roots in the land of the rising sun, it presents a significant question: who owns culture? No doubt, one would think that music such as Bluegrass is American as, well, excuse the corny, apple pie, but is that really the case? The filmmakers do not make a big fuss about it, but the answer is a thread running through the entire film. Music, like anything else humans create, belongs to no specific country nor culture. Once created, it is free to wonder the globe and be adopted by anyone interested and willing to take ownership. After all, or so I read online, Bluegrass itself, has mixed roots in Irish, Scottish and English traditional music, and was also later influenced by the music of African-Americans through incorporation of jazz elements [Source: Wikipedia.] Coming to think about it, this applies to anything invented and created; from medicine to physics to literature, although these are thought sparked by the film yet not included in its subject matter.
Far Western may teach you a thing or two you did not know about country music and Japan, but mostly, it will make you feel good.