“The Targeted Village,” a documentary on the fight by Okinawa residents against the deployment of MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft at the Futenma air base, is showing in Tokyo theaters.
Released Saturday, the 91-minute film is based on an award-winning TV program produced by Chie Mikami for an Okinawa station in 2012.
It focuses on the residents of Takae, a community in northern Okinawa Island, who speak of feeling “targeted” by the U.S. military and its plan to build six heliports in the surrounding area.
The film takes its title from the fact the village was used as a mock target in the 1960s to train U.S. forces for the Vietnam War. The U.S. military set up a mock Vietnamese village there and had residents of Takae dress up as Vietnamese farmers to lend a semblance of realism to the guerrilla warfare training drills.
The area is still being used for training for jungle warfare, including guerrilla attacks, infantry training and helicopter drills.
The film concentrates on the deployment of the Osprey as a symbol of the huge U.S. military presence in Okinawa, home to about 75 percent of all U.S. military facilities in Japan.
The crash of a U.S. Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter in a mountainous area within U.S. Marine Corps Camp Hansen in Okinawa on Aug. 5 may bring the film further attention.
“I wanted to reflect the feelings of the people of Okinawa, who are opposed to the deployment of Ospreys,” said Mikami, 48, a newscaster at Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting, the TV station in Okinawa known as QAB. A Tokyo native, she joined QAB in 1995.
The film closely follows a court battle between the central government and the residents of Takae, as well as sit-ins and other protest activities by the residents aimed at blocking the construction of the helicopter landing zones in the U.S. military’s Northern Training Area in the subtropical mountain forest district.
Construction of the heliports started in 2007 under an agreement reached in 1996 between the Japanese and U.S. governments. The project has stalled due to opposition from residents fearing accidents and environmental destruction.
The central government sought a provisional injunction in 2008 to ban 15 residents, including a 7-year-old girl, from obstructing traffic, and eventually filed a lawsuit in 2010 against two of the residents.
The film calls the lawsuit a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP. Such lawsuits have been defined in legal circles as retaliatory lawsuits intended to silence, intimidate or punish people who have used public forums to speak, petition or otherwise move for government action on an issue.
The court battle is ongoing, with the residents appealing a recent high court ruling that ordered one resident to halt sit-ins and other protest activities.
Mikami uses footage taken in September 2012 when Okinawa residents, including Diet members and mayors of local cities and towns, blocked all three gates of the Futenma base over the pending Osprey deployment. By parking cars and sitting in front of the gates, the protesters temporarily halted vehicle traffic in and out of the base.
They were later forcibly removed by police in scenes most major networks never aired. It was this fact that triggered Mikami’s desire to reach a wider audience.
She used the footage of the protesters’ removal as it “showed well who the people of Okinawa are fighting against and why they are forced to fight such a battle.”