A Film On Yasuke, Japan’s First Black Samurai, Is In The Works

Elijah C. Watson Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When…
A Film About Yasuke, Japan's First Black Samurai, Is In The Works
Illustration of Yasuke taken from the children's historical fiction novel, Kuro-suke
A Film About Yasuke, Japan's First Black Samurai, Is In The Works

Illustration of Yasuke taken from the children’s historical fiction novel, Kuro-suke

A movie centered around the historical tale of Yasuke, the reputed first black samurai to serve a warlord in Japan, is currently in development.

Titled Black Samurai, the film’s script is being written by Highlander creator Gregory Widen, and being produced by Mike De Luca and Stephen L’Heureux.

“[Black Samurai] is based on the true story of an African whose journey to Japan comes with conflicting background stories,” Widen said in a report from Deadline. “The one I’ve chosen is that he was a slave soldier after the fall of Abysinnian Bengal, a black kingdom run by Ethiopians. He was sold into slavery and found himself in the care of Alessandro Valignano, an Italian missionary. They formed a bond, and when there were complications in Rome, he was sent to Japan and took Yasuke with him. There he met Oda Nobunaga, who was interested in all Western things, and through a series of bizarre events, the Jesuit left Yasuke with the warlord.”

According to various sources, Yasuke was likely from Portuguese Mozambique and served Nobunaga from 1581 to 1582. When Valignano arrived in Japan with Yasuke, the latter’s presence reportedly caused some commotion. Black people at that time were not discriminated but admired, with many depictions of Buddha being portrayed as black in Japanese temples. Yasuke’s skin color became of interest to Nobunaga, who thought Yasuke was covered in black ink (and even made him scrub himself to prove he was black).

No other information is know about the forthcoming film, but it will be interesting to see who will be selected for the lead role of the film.

Maybe Common could take on Yasuke, considering he is set to star in the titular role of Black Samurai, a TV adaptation of the 1974 book of the same name (but is unrelated to film).

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