A public preview of director Li Ying’s controversial documentary “Yasukuni” was held Wednesday in Tokyo by lawyers associations who feared the city’s populace might miss the chance to see the film because cinemas are canceling plans to screen it.
In Tokyo, four cinemas that originally planned to show the documentary earlier this month have canceled the screenings, while another cinema has announced that it will show the film starting May 3.
More than 20 movie theaters across Japan plan to screen the documentary in May or later, according to a distributor.
The screening Wednesday was given by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, the Tokyo Bar Association and other attorney organizations.
Shigeoki Hatakeyama, 74, of Tokyo, said after the screening that he didn’t understand the movie’s message nor the theaters’ reasons for backing away from it.
“There were some scenes that some people may find anti-Japanese, such as photos of heads decapitated by Japanese soldiers. Overall, I felt the message of the film is not clear. I think the director could have presented his message clearer,” said Hatakeyama, who was among the 200 people selected from about 1,500 who applied to attend the preview.
“I don’t understand why movie theaters backed out of showing this film.”
Emiko Ikeda, a 53-year-old magazine editor from Yokohama, said the movie was even-handed in its treatment of Japan.
“It is a great documentary film calmly portraying Japan and Japanese people through Yasukuni Shrine,” Ikeda said. “This film is neither anti-Japan nor anti-China. . . . I think this film should be watched by many Japanese people.”
University of Tokyo professor Tetsuya Takahashi, who is well-versed in the issues surrounding Yasukuni Shrine, criticized the cinemas that shied away from the film by exercising “self-restraint” for putting their right to freedom of expression at risk.