The man who found The Railway Man

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A Fareham film maker who found ‘The Railway Man’ says he’s pleased the prisoner of war’s story is being told in a new Hollywood film.

Michael Finlason was filming a documentary in 1993 when he discovered a story that was so emotional it is now being told in a £16m movie starring Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Jeremy Irvine.

Michael Finlason

Michael Finlason

Michael was filming Eric Lomax, a man who had been tortured when he was a prisoner of war on the infamous Burma Railway during the Second World War.

Eric mentioned that after years of searching and torment, and encouragement to face his demons from his wife, he had found his torturer.

The Japanese official was alive and had escaped punishment at the end of the war, and the pair had been writing to each other.

Michael, 70, said: ‘At the end of filming Eric let slip that he’d found the Japanese Kempatai (Military Police) interrogator who’d been present during his prolonged torture but who’d vanished after the war.

Eric had been looking for him for 50 years while suffering severe mental torment — a legacy of the torture.’

Eric suffered terrible mental anguish after the torture, which had seen him waterboarded and kept close to death.

Michael persuaded Eric that the reuniting story itself merited a documentary and they set off to meet the interrogator, Nagase Takashi, on the Kwai Bridge in Thailand.

Michael said: ‘The meeting was extraordinary and had unexpected results. Suffice to say, they reconciled and, accepting an invitation to Japan, Eric finally forgave Nagase though he vowed never to forget.

‘The meeting was cathartic and completely changed Eric. He became outgoing and began talking for the first time of his experiences, even sitting down to write his autobiography.’

Eric’s book The Railway Man became a best-seller and the documentary Enemy, My Friend won the first Echo European Union documentary award in 1995.

The movie rights were bought by Archer Productions and a film was shot in the UK, Thailand and Australia.

Eric, who lived in Berwick-on-Tweed, died in 2012, aged 93, but not before he met all three Hollywood stars on the film set, including Colin Firth who plays him. His torturer Nagase also died in 2011.

Michael said: ‘I am pleased that the story was told. It was such an important story to capture.’

The Railway Man is due for release at cinemas on January 10 and Michael hopes his documentary Enemy, My Friend will be reshown later this year.