Distributor yanks ‘Yasukuni’ in Kochi


A Kochi cinema said Saturday it cannot screen the documentary “Yasukuni” because the distributor will not provide the controversial award-winning film since the key person featured now says he wants to be deleted from it.

Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, where most of the film was shot, said Friday on its Web site that it has asked Chinese director Li Ying and the distributor to delete some of the content because it misrepresents the facts.

Kochi’s Atago Gekijo theater had planned to screen the film in late May. But Argo Pictures, the distributor, has withheld it because sword smith Naoji Kariya, 90, the main character, reportedly seeks to be deleted from the movie.

Kariya, a Kochi Prefecture resident, makes the “Yasukuni Swords” featured in the film, which has already been shown overseas and recently won an award at the 32nd Hong Kong International Film Festival.

“I was prepared for protests (over screening the film) by political organizations,” said Asao Mizuta, manager of the theater in Kochi. “We are in a weak position when the distributor won’t distribute it.”

Kochi film distributor Shikoku Buneisha, which had planned to screen “Yasukuni” at the request of civic groups in the prefecture, also said Argo Pictures felt otherwise.

An Argo official said it decided not to distribute the film in Kochi Prefecture for the time being because it is afraid any screening may cause trouble for Kariya.

It will distribute the film to theaters in other prefectures that are planning to show it.

More than 10 theaters nationwide plan to screen the documentary in May or later.

The film by Li, who lives in Japan, is about events and people linked to Tokyo’s contentious shrine dedicated to Japan’s war dead, as well as Class-A war criminals.

Some consider Yasukuni a symbol of Japan’s militarist past.

The film has been under pressure before its release.

After a weekly magazine labeled it “anti-Japanese,” Tomomi Inada, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, asked the Agency for Cultural Affairs to show the film, which was partly funded by an organization affiliated with the agency, to a group of lawmakers before its release.

Argo Pictures gave the preview intended for all lawmakers on March 12. Afterward, four theaters in Tokyo and another in Osaka declined to screen the film, citing protests by rightwing groups and the “inconvenience” it might cause nearby tenants.

The film has also been shown at international film festivals in South Korea, Germany and the U.S.

Earlier reports said Liberal Democratic Party Upper House member Haruko Arimura may have pressured Kariya into wanting out of the film, a claim her office has denied.