Distributor to go ahead with showing ‘Yasukuni’

Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Reports

Movie distributor Argo Pictures said Monday it will go ahead with plans to screen a controversial documentary on Yasukuni Shrine across Japan in early May as scheduled, despite a request from the Shinto shrine to delete some of the content.

Argo Pictures, which was given two weeks by the Shinto shrine last week to reply to its demand, said it will consult with lawyers and file a written reply by the deadline.

Last Friday, the Tokyo shrine, where most of the 123-minute-long film “Yasukuni” was shot, asked Chinese director Li Ying and the distributor to delete some of the content, saying they failed to follow due process.

Yasukuni Shrine, dedicated to the nation’s war dead — and some Class-A war criminals — said it received requests to film there from production company Dragon Films Inc. three times in the past decade. But no request was filed concerning its production of the documentary, the shrine said.

Argo Pictures said 21 theaters nationwide from Hokkaido to Okinawa plan to show the film in May or later.

The distributor said it has received requests from other cinemas to screen the film.

Keepers of Yasukuni Shrine have accused Li of misrepresenting the shrine in the documentary.

“It is very regrettable that the film, which may cause (people) to misunderstand this shrine, was produced and is to be screened,” the shrine — seen by many as a symbol that glorifies Japan’s militaristic past — said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Loft Plus One, a live music club in Tokyo’s Shinjuku entertainment district, announced Monday it will show a preview of the film Friday, asking mainly rightwing group activists to attend.

Yu Hirano, operator of the club, and Mitsuhiro Kimura, leader of the Issuikai nationalist group, are among the promoters of the preview.

Argo Pictures said it will provide the film for the preview because it wants spectators to decide if it is really an anti-Japanese film, as labeled by some people.

In “Yasukuni,” Li, a resident of Japan, depicts events and people connected to the shrine.

After a weekly magazine labeled it “anti-Japanese,” a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker asked the Cultural Affairs Agency to show the film, which was partly funded by an organization affiliated with the agency, to a group of lawmakers before its release. The distributor gave a preview intended for all lawmakers March 12.

Following these developments, four theaters in Tokyo and another in Osaka decided against showing the film, citing protests by rightwing groups and the “inconvenience” it might cause nearby tenants.