Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Yasukuni Update

(Korean version of the movie poster; image borrowed from Japan Focus.)

It's been a while since I have posted on Li Ying's controversial film, Yasukuni. A nice update of events by John Junkerman (Li Ying’s “Yasukuni”: The Controversy Continues) can be found at Japan Focus.

Junkerman begins his text: On March 5, 2009, the first hearing in a civil suit against Chinese film director Li Ying was held in the Tokyo District Court. It was, ironically, twenty years to the day since Li first took up residence in Japan, and a year after his documentary, “Yasukuni,” became the center of a political maelstrom when all five theaters scheduled to premiere the film suddenly cancelled their screenings.

The cancellations were prompted by threats from right-wing nationalists to disrupt the screenings, coupled with harsh criticism of the political slant of the film by conservative members of the Japanese Diet... Dozens of civil liberty and media organizations responded with statements condemning what was seen as political censorship, and theaters across the country stepped up with offers to screen the film.

“Yasukuni” will have its US premiere at the Film Forum in New York on August 12, and it will open at more than a dozen theaters in South Korea on August 6.

Also of interest for visual anthropologists dealing with privacy issues is discussion of one of the current lawsuits againt Li.:

The suit against Li came as something of a surprise, given that the film’s theatrical run had ended and the DVD had already been on the market for some four months. The plaintiff is Kuroiwa Toru, a man who appears in a short, 90-second scene early in the 123-minute film. He is claiming violation of his right to privacy.

Kuroiwa was filmed having a casual conversation with two other men on the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, during the annual commemoration of the end of the Pacific War that is the centerpiece of Li’s film. He claims that he was unaware that he was being filmed and has suggested that Li used a hidden camera. (Li counters that he used a large, quite visible video camera and filmed from only several feet away.)

Kuroiwa described his motivation for filing the suit in a public declaration in February: “I absolutely cannot condone grave acts of aggression against the honor of Yasukuni Shrine and the heroic spirits of the dead, and by extension against the dignity of our country.” He goes on to declare his determination to fight in court against “this film’s Chinese director who brazenly commits this kind of uncivilized violence.”

Read the whole article:

The Region 2 (Japan, Europe) version of the film is available on DVD; I haven't been able to clarify if English subtitles are included.

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