National

Tokyo theater to screen films for ‘Death Penalty Week’

by Keiji Hirano

Kyodo

Nine films from Japan and abroad that explore the theme of capital punishment will be screened consecutively at a theater in Tokyo’s Shibuya district over a one-week period starting Saturday, accompanied by a series of talks.

The movies to be shown at Eurospace for “Death Penalty Movie Week” include a screening of “Serial Killer,” a 1969 documentary on Norio Nagayama, who was hanged in 1997 for fatally shooting four people when he was a teenager, and the 1958 French movie “Elevator to the Gallows.” Movies from Bolivia, China and South Korea will also be shown.

The screenings, at a pace of three to four movies a day, will be accompanied by talk sessions with guest speakers, including Yoshihiro Yasuda, a Tokyo-based lawyer leading the campaign against the death penalty in Japan, and Shoji Sakurai, who was falsely accused in a high-profile 1967 murder case and acquitted more than 40 years later.

The event is organized by Forum 90, which has campaigned for terminating capital punishment since 1990, under the main title of “Crime, Punishment and Forgiveness.”

“Most people in Japan support the death penalty without knowing its realities, as information about capital punishment has not been fully disclosed in this country,” said Masakuni Ota, a member of Forum 90. “We expect this film festival to provide an opportunity to understand parts of the secret system.”

The secrecy surrounding executions in Japan has come under strong scrutiny at home and abroad because inmates aren’t told when they will be hanged until the actual day, and their family members and lawyers are only informed of their deaths afterward. The criteria used to organize the executions also remain unclear.

The U.N. adopted a resolution in December calling on countries that conduct executions to impose a moratorium on the death penalty and disclose information about the practice.

See the Eurospace homepage for screening details (Japanese).