No Tokyo theater will show ‘Yasukuni’ film

Kyodo News

Three more theaters in Tokyo and one in Osaka have decided against screening “Yasukuni,” a controversial documentary on Yasukuni Shrine by Chinese director Li Ying scheduled for release in mid-April, officials of the cinemas said Monday.

The development means that no theater in the capital will show the film. The three cinemas were planning to premier “Yasukuni” on April 12 in Tokyo, after a fourth theater had earlier backed out.

Humax Cinema Inc., the operator of Ginza Cinepatos, said the three decided not to show the film “out of concern that it could cause inconvenience to neighboring commercial facilities.”

Cinemas in Sapporo, Nagoya, Hiroshima and Fukuoka are still scheduled to screen “Yasukuni,” according to Argo Pictures, one of the film’s distributors.

The Directors Guild of Japan expressed apprehension about the possibility that freedom of expression may be compromised following Monday’s development.

The group issued a strong protest against a group of lawmakers who called for a preview of the film on the grounds it may be “anti-Japanese.”

“While they say these actions were not meant at all to restrict freedom of expression and screening, it is evident that they will pressure screening moves expected to take place as well as psychologically suppress free and creative activities of movie directors who express ideas,” said a statement released by the guild, of which the film’s director, Li, is a member.

A preview was held March 12 by Argo Pictures for lawmakers at the request of some ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers.

The LDP members called for the preview because they questioned whether it was appropriate to grant ¥7.5 million in government money to fund the production of a documentary that they said appeared to be anti-Japanese.

The film tells the stories of people involved with Yasukuni who hold different views about the war and the shrine, and focuses in particular on a sword smith who crafts “Yasukuni Swords.”

Tomomi Inada, one of the LDP members who challenged “Yasukuni,” told a news conference Friday she thought it was inappropriate for the government to provide a subsidy for the production of the film, saying the film’s political neutrality is questionable.

“We are studying necessary measures, including a refund of the subsidy,” said Inada.