Despite a previous ban on the movie, Japanese theater-goers will finally have a chance to see Angelina Jolie’s 2014 prisoner of war drama, Unbroken.
Despite heated protests from Japanese nationalists, Unbroken will finally open on a single screen in a movie theater in Tokyo’s Shibuya district in February, 2016.
When the film was released in the U.S. and other international theaters a year ago, it was pulled from the Japanese screen scheduling after Japanese right-wing activists pressured the local distributor to delay the movie’s release indefinitely. The distributor, Toho-Towa, bowed to pressure and banned the film from theaters in Japan.
— THR International (@THRGlobal) October 23, 2015
Yahoo News reports that finally, in February, 2016, the Japanese indie distributor Bitters End will be showing the film in the Shibuya district. Unbroken was Angelina Jolie’s second feature as a director and outlines the true story of Olympic runner and WWII air force pilot Louis Zamperini.
Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 best-selling book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, the film shows how Zamperini suffered two years of starvation and torture in the Japanese prison camps after his B-24 bomber crashed into the Pacific back in 1943.
When the film was released internationally, the Japanese right-wing activists launched an online campaign calling for the film to be banned in the country. According to them, the film’s depiction of a sadistic Japanese prison guard — played by Japanese pop singer Miyavi — was both historically inaccurate and racist.
According to Hiromichi Moteki, of the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact in Japan, the nationalist group leading the campaign against the movie, they objected to portrayals of Japanese soldiers involved in cannibalism of the prisoners of war.
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) October 22, 2015
Moteki stressed that there is no history of cannibalism in Japanese culture, adding that there was no mention of this in the book the Angelina Jolie-directed movie was based on.
“This film is stupid, fabricated and humiliating to Japanese people.”
However, as noted in the media, many objections to the film were inaccurate in themselves, as due to the film not having been screened in Japan, they were attacking a movie they hadn’t even seen. In the case of cannibalism, this was mentioned in the original book, but Angelina Jolie chose not to include the incidents in the film itself.
For her part, Angelina Jolie has repeatedly called for Unbroken to be released in Japan. Last December, she said in an interview with USA Today that they were very conscious of showing both sides of the war in the film, including the bombing of Tokyo and they wanted to portray Zamperini’s experience.
“.. this is Louis’ experience and he … had a very difficult time as a POW. So we want to pay respect and show that all people suffer in war.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, it is not just the Angelina Jolie film that is affected, as the views of Japan’s far-right-wingers wield a disproportionate degree of influence in the country’s political and media sphere. Back in 2010, the Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove, which portrays a Japanese dolphin hunt, was also almost banned from the theaters in Japan.
However, later the Directors Guild of Japan and various influential figures in the media demanded that the film be screened in the country on the grounds of free speech.
For anyone who has not yet seen Unbroken, the trailer is included below.
[Photo Louis Zamperini by Noel Vasquez / Getty Images Sport — Angelina Jolie by Christopher Polk / Getty Images Entertainment]