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In 2003, Japan was amid its “Lost Decade”. The economy was stagnant, unemployment was on the rise, and from 1995 to 2007 real wages fell 5%. For all the economic damage, it is possible that the Japanese people suffered even more from a morale standpoint, as the prospects for the future appeared bleaker with each year. But, on a remote racetrack in Kochi, a savior and a symbol of determination was already well on her way to lifting the spirits of the nation.

Micky Duzyj’s 30-for-30 short The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere tells the story of winless racehorse Haru Urara, which means “Glorious Spring”. The racetrack in Kochi where Haru Urara raced was struggling financially, and if it went into the red that year, it would be shut down. When the first article about Haru Urara was written in 2003, she sported a record of 0-88. The story went viral, before that was even a thing, culminating in a comment from Prime Minister Koizumi stating, “I’d like to see Haru Urara win! The horse is a good example of not giving up!”.

Using mainly interviews with racetrack employees, animation, and some archival footage, Duzyj crafts a whimsical re-telling of Haru Urara’s story. It is impossible not to root for the horse as her losing streak lengthens, and some of the testimonials truly pull at the heartstrings. The climax of the film recounts a crucial race at the height of the horse’s popularity, and is immensely stirring.

The horse’s trainer summarizes the mystique of Hara Urara as, “If you yourself feel you gave your all and then lost, you should still be commended.” In a time when many across the world were losing, Haru Urara became their shining star.

Screens (with “Up or Out”):
Wednesday, May 4, 7:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Thursday, May 5, 9:15 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Sunday, May 8, 9:30 PM, Scotiabank Theatre

Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.

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