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VIDEO: Japanese Students are Transformed through Gospel Music’s SUPERNATURAL Power

LOS ANGELES, CA – Filmmaker Rosylyn Rhee is directing a documentary about a Japanese gospel choir that performs in African American mega churches throughout Los Angeles. After witnessing just one of the choir’s rehearsals, Rhee knew this story would fascinate and move audiences around the world. Rhee first learned about the choir when one of her clients requested she come out to film the choir’s visit to LA. “I was floored. Not only by their technical prowess, but also by the soul and passion they poured into singing. These kids were feeling it.” It’s no gimmick. The choir is unbelievably good and much of it is due to their teachers, Shin Ikesue of Japan and Pastor Richard Hartley, an African American choir director from New York. “The cognitive dissonance of seeing Japanese people sing gospel and an African American man ruthlessly, lovingly push them to be better NOW, is spellbinding. No matter how you slice it, it’s an exceptional story.”

As to how African American parishioners receive the choir in their place of worship, Rhee says: “There’s a multitude of reactions, ranging from shock to joyful dancing to tears. Churchgoers are shaken to the core watching their tradition authentically honored – not fetishized – by a completely alien culture.” “It’s a great story waiting to be told. But also very expensive: filming in Japan with a translator and small crew takes an enormous amount of resources.” Enter Kickstarter. Rhee and her team just launched their campaign to raise $50,000. “Kickstarter is essential. Without these funds, this film cannot happen. We really need community support to bring this story to people around the world.”

You can view and donate to their Kickerstarter here.


Stereotypes, language barriers, and strongholds come tumbling down in Rosylyn Rhee’s feature documentary SUPERNATURAL. This moving, and at times humorous, story chronicles the unlikely partnership between African American pastor Richard Hartley and Japanese choir director Shin Ikesue and their life journey through Japan to teach non-English speaking students gospel music. After three months of intense study and rehearsals, the Japanese students perform as the Tokyo Mass Choir at black churches throughout America. In this riveting first-hand account, both African American parishioners and Japanese students are transformed through gospel music’s supernatural power.

While delving into the complexities of two clashing cultures, this film explores the transformation of Japanese youths from feeling isolated and hopeless to discovering self-love and connection to community through an African American tradition. Seemingly worlds apart, African Americans and Japanese connect not only through mutual respect and the power of music, but through shared pain. Currently in production in Japan and the U.S.

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