Monday, April 28, 2008

Yasukuni, NHK and Documentary Styles

Philip Brasor contributes to the ongoing dialogue about "Yasukuni" in his recent contribution to Japan Focus. He discusses various documentary styles (like we have been doing in class) and their repercussions.

Yasukuni Film and NHK’s Declaration to Promote National Interests. Government Funding, Free Expression and Propaganda in Japan

Here are Brasor's final two paragraphs:

Mori's idea is what connects Komori Shigetaka to Inada Tomomi. Neither of these authority figures trusts viewers to make up their own minds about the information they receive. Komori believes that overseas viewers of NHK World broadcasts will not form a correct idea of Japan's interests unless those interests are conveyed exclusively; while Inada thinks that anyone who sees "Yasukuni" will come away from it hating Japan.

Both of these positions are inherently patronizing, which brings to mind a comment a Japanese friend made after seeing "Yasukuni." She said that all the local reports about the movie stress that it has no narration. Japanese people have been raised on NHK-produced documentaries, which could be described as over-narrated: the visuals and dialogue are reinforced with redundant voiceover that, in some cases, is added for the visually impaired but whose content and tone nevertheless implicitly tell viewers how to process what they're taking in. A 74-year-old man who attended a public preview of "Yasukuni" in Tokyo told the Japan Times that he was bothered by the film because its " not clear." The trouble many Japanese will have with the documentary is not that it brings up difficult issues, but that it doesn't tell them how they're supposed to feel about them.

Link to Brasor's article in Japan Focus:

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