In a small victory for freedom of speech, independent distributor Bitters End opened Angelina Jolie’s controversial World War II prison camp movie “Unbroken” at Shibuya’s Theatre Image Forum, and in the end there were no fascist sound trucks or other harassment — just a couple of aggro emails. Yet the fact remains that no major distributor was willing to touch the film, due to the fact that it had been smeared as “anti-Japanese” prior to even being released, reflecting the climate of self-censorship in Japan these days.
“Unbroken” was labeled “anti-Japanese” by local right-wing Internet trolls largely due to a brief mention in the Laura Hillenbrand book on which the film was based of starving Japanese soldiers engaging in cannibalism, something rightists claim is hearsay. As it turns out, that scene didn’t end up in the film, but the Sankei Shimbun even scoured the deleted scenes on an imported U.S. Blu-ray edition of “Unbroken” to try and find some flesh-munching. Having no luck there, the line of attack on the film has shifted.
Some Japanese viewers who saw the movie overseas Tweeted that they felt “afraid” of the menacing genchi no gaikokujin (“local foreigners,” i.e., people in their own country) after the credits rolled. And then there is the thread that went viral on Tweet-aggregator Togetter called “F—- Jap!,” a hefty compilation of tweets in English along the lines of “I just saw ‘Unbroken’ and now I hate the Japs,” which is further proof of widespread Internet stupidity but clearly dwarfed by the number of people who had the same reaction to “One Direction: This Is Us.” Is that film “anti-idol”?