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Film 'father' about Japanese priest helping schoolkids in Cambodia to hit screens

In a scene from "father," Fumio Goto, left, rides in a carriage with his adopted son Meas Bunra through a farming region in Cambodia.

TOKYO -- The film "father," documenting the life of Catholic priest Fumio Goto, 88, who adopted 14 Cambodian refugees and built 19 elementary schools in their home country, is coming to Musashino-Kan Shinjuku in Shinjuku Ward on April 7.

    Nicknamed "Gocchan," the father of Kichijoji Catholic Church in the suburban Tokyo city of Musashino doesn't quite fit into the traditional mold of a priest. Goto was the second son born into a Pureland Buddhist temple family in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture. When he was 15 years old, he lost his mother, younger sister and younger brother in a U.S. airstrike on the city in August 1945 shortly before the end of World War II. While he couldn't bring himself to forget his beloved mother, his father remarried against his wishes, and he set foot in a Catholic church for the first time under the guidance of his first love, who was Christian.

    Shocked by the sight of war orphans in Tokyo's Ueno district, Goto decided at 20 to leave home and become a priest, entering a seminary school in Nagoya. The son of a Buddhist temple priest had become a Catholic priest.

    In 1981 when Goto was serving as a priest at Kichijoji Catholic Church, he adopted two young boys who were Cambodian refugees. As a priest is prohibited from marrying by his faith, Goto was a little late becoming a father at over 50 years old.

    Before long, Goto traveled with one of his 14 adopted children, Meas Ravon, who goes by the name Meas Bunra, to look for his parents who went missing during the Cambodian Civil War. It was there that Goto realized that education was essential for the reconstruction of Cambodia, and well into his 60s, the father began to build elementary schools there, starting his own NPO.

    While supporting villages that had been devastated after becoming strongholds of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot's forces, the number of schools Goto built grew to 19. For his efforts, he won the 2007 Mainichi International Exchange Award.

    The documentary "father" was filmed on location in Cambodia with a production team of volunteers. Leader of the volunteers and director Ko Watanabe, 51, took three years between his busy schedule as a television director to complete the film -- his first. "The more I interacted with Goto, the more kind and warm of a person I felt he is," said Watanabe. "I want to convey that to as many people as possible."

    After its run as a morning showing through April 20 at Musashino-Kan Shinjuku near the east exit of JR Shinjuku Station, the documentary will begin playing from April 21 at the Cocomaru Theater near the north exit of JR Kichijoji Station in Musashino. (Japanese original by Ken Aoshima, Lifestyle News Department)

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