In Japan, online bullying can ruin the lives of not only individuals but also their families. Its roots lie in traditional beliefs that shameful deeds derive from bad blood, with the badness extending beyond the shamed individual to their kin, even to future generations.
Thus the ancient punishment of mura hachibu — social ostracism — still exists in forms adapted to the digital age, with consequences that can be extreme and long-lasting.
This is one of the topics covered in “A Balance,” the second feature by Yujiro Harumoto. Based on a true incident, the film is a nuanced, unblinking look at how the media shapes narratives of innocence and guilt, while disregarding truths that don’t fit them. The film’s protagonist, a documentary filmmaker who moonlights as a teacher at her father’s cram school, faces pressures to go along with lies of omission and commission under the label of jishuku (self-restraint).