[Marxism] Interview with director of "Yasukuni"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jun 24 16:34:28 MDT 2008

"Yasukuni" director Li on his tough-love letter to Japan

"Yasukuni" director Li Ying shares his thoughts with John Junkerman 
and David McNeill on the contentious Tokyo shrine, the motivation 
behind the movie, and his reaction to the furor in Japan over the 
documentary's release.

On the reaction to his movie in Japan:

Before the movie was released I visited each theater and talked to 
the managers. Some magazines had already started discussing the movie 
so we knew that there would be some protests. There was a very strong 
sense among everyone then of wanting to put this movie out and 
challenge the protesters. So why have they all suddenly changed their 
minds? I can only conclude that pressure was exerted behind the scenes.

How the idea for "Yasukuni" was born:

I had wanted to make a film about Nanking (the Nanjing Massacre). In 
speaking with Japanese, of course there is always a gap in the 
perception of history. And the gap surrounding Nanking is the widest. 
So I was interested in Nanking and in 1997 I attended a symposium at 
Kudan Kaikan (in Tokyo) on the 60th anniversary of Nanking.

Dancing with the devil over 'Yasukuni':

The first event of the symposium was the screening of a documentary 
about Nanking. It was a propaganda film produced by the Japanese 
military, and of course it didn't touch on the massacre at all. There 
was a scene of the formal ceremony of the Japanese military entering 
the city. And something happened that I couldn't believe. The 
audience applauded, very loudly. It was a shock. It left me shaking. 
I couldn't believe it. I felt like I was standing on a battlefield. 
It was a shock to experience such a scene, here in Japan so many 
years after the war. That people still feel a sense of honor and 
pride toward such a scene, it's unthinkable.

This is not simply a typical rightwing problem. This far surpassed 
what I understood to be the right wing. It's a fancy venue, more than 
a thousand people, all wearing suits and ties, University of Tokyo 
professors, members of the "Atarashii Kyokasho o Tsukuru Kai" (the 
Japanese Society for Textbook Reform). There are those who have 
researched the massacre, and there are those who deny it. There were 
deniers participating in the symposium. And what do they emphasize? 
They deny the testimony of those who were in Nanking, and argue that 
the massacre never happened. There's no possibility of discussing it with them.

At the symposium, the daughter of one of the officers who engaged in 
the "100 head-cutting" contest appealed for the restoration of her 
father's honor, that he be treated not as a war criminal but as a 
heroic soul in Yasukuni. So that made me wonder what Yasukuni 
symbolized, this sacred space that granted heroic status. This was an 
issue that had more of a sense of reality. Nanking is a historical 
problem, but to take up an issue that carries reality, you need to 
film in Japan, and that meant filming Yasukuni, to bring the issue 
into present reality. Yasukuni feels very real to me.

So I began filming then and continued for 10 years. I didn't know 
what kind of film it would turn out to be. I decided I would just 
film every time I went to Yasukuni. As I filmed I would study and 
learn more, and figure it out. That's very time-consuming, not 
knowing what kind of film it will turn out to be. But I had a sense 
that it raised very real issues.

full: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/mail/fl20080408a1.html

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