Controversial Chinese Documentary Canceled In Japan

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A planned screening of the award winning Chinese documentary, “Yasukuni”, was canceled in four Tokyo theaters yesterday. The film was scheduled to open in Japanese theaters on April 12th, but after Monday’s cancellations, the premiere date is in flux.

The film has stirred strong emotions over its depiction of the Yasukuni shrine, a controversial place of worship for fallen Japanese soldiers, a number of who have been convicted of war crimes against Chinese and others during the Second World War. Chinese filmmaker Li Ying’s documentary raises questions over the shrine by depicting various opinions about it, some that may have incited strong emotions among Japanese politicians.

The Yasukuni shrine has been a place of protest in the past, particularly when Japanese government officials, including the Prime Minister, have visited the shrine. The shrine has also been hotly debated in Japan, and has raised questions of Japan’s role in criminal acts during World War II.

The film was screened for Japanese lawmakers in March, and may have spurred the theater cancellations. Some Japanese political groups were also seen to have taken grievances with the content of the documentary.

“Yasukuni” won the best documentary award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival, and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary category at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

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Christopher P. Duffy

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