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‘Fallujah’ asks where responsibility lies for 2004 Iraq War hostage issue

Chunichi Shimbun

A movie documenting the lives of three Japanese who were taken hostage by an armed group in Iraq in 2004 during the Iraq War and were later released started playing on Feb. 8 in Cinemaskhole, a movie theater in Nagoya.

Their situation largely differed from other hostage cases in that they returned home from their ordeal only to find themselves harshly blamed for having been kidnapped in the first place.

A central theme in the national debate at the time was “jiko sekinin,” or self-responsibility.

“The Abe administration wants to enhance this country’s military capability, and I’d like to use this opportunity to get people thinking what jiko sekinin is,” said 28-year-old Megumi Ito from Mie Prefecture, the movie’s director.

The title, “Fallujah — After the Iraq War and Japanese Hostage Crisis,” is taken from the city where the kidnapping occurred.

The film follows two of the hostages, Noriaki Imai, 28, and Nahoko Takato, 44, for six months from the end of 2012.

The crew also went to Iraq and interviewed local journalists.

The other hostage, Soichiro Koriyama, 41, was not in the documentary as he was traveling overseas as a journalist when filming began.

The film shows how Imai and Takato overcame the criticism and started believing in their life choices again.

Takato has returned to doing voluntary work in an Iraqi hospital, managing foreign doctors and building strong relationships with local doctors.

She has been collecting data on congenital disorders among newborn babies that are believed to be brought about by the effects of depleted uranium bullets fired by the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, Imai described how he suffered from the criticism.

“The blame made me question my own existence and I developed anthropophobia,” he said. “I was in a very similar situation as children who refuse to go to school.”

He started a nonprofit group in Osaka in 2012 to support high school students who have isolated themselves from society.

The movie director, Ito, is a director at a television production company in Tokyo, making programs on fishing and other shows.

She was still in high school when the hostage crisis occurred, participating in street demonstrations against the Iraq War, but began to distance herself from the issue after noticing how blame was placed on the hostages.

Now with the 10-year anniversary of the incident approaching, she decided to take on the topic in her movie directorial debut.

“The three of them went to Iraq alone because they felt responsible as people of a country that supported the United States starting war with Iraq,” Ito said. “Is it wrong for us civilians to choose such a way of taking responsibility? I want (viewers) to think about it carefully, and to avoid any easy conclusions.”

The movie will be shown until Feb. 28, and will also run in Osaka and Kobe.

The film’s distributors can be contacted at 03-5369-3637 for more information.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Feb. 6.