Japanese cinema is facing up to its #MeToo moment

FILE: Interior of cinema in Kyoto, Japan
FILE: Interior of cinema in Kyoto, Japan Copyright Kyodo News via AP
Copyright Kyodo News via AP
By Euronews with AP
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Film premieres have been cancelled, actors edited out of TV shows, and some of the countries biggest international names have been implicated in sexual abuse scandals.


The Japanese film industry is having its own #MeToo moment with a number of well-known directors and actors caught up in sex abuse scandals.

A group of top names in the industry has now signed a petition to express their outrage at the situation, including Cannes’ Palme d’Or-winning Hirokazu Kore-eda, Cannes Jury Prize winner Koji Fukada and “Under the Sky” director Miwa Nishikawa.

“These acts are unforgivable,” the statement said, calling for such acts to stop.

The outburst comes after the premiere of two films directed by Hideo Sakaki, “Mitsugetsu” and “Hazard Lamp,” were suddenly cancelled after a Japanese magazine reported allegations of sexual violence from several women.

His production company denounced sexual abuse and announced Sakaki had departed. Sakaki has apologised in a statement to fans and co-workers for the cancellations, while noting inaccuracies in the report, which he didn't specify.

Actor Houka Kinoshita has paused his career after two women accused him of demanding sex against their will a decade ago. A TV drama series aired earlier this week with all his scenes cut.

“I cannot appear before you and continue with my entertainment work after what I have done, and I will be taking a leave for an indefinite period,” Kinoshita said in a statement.

Allegations have been made, too, against Shion Sono, a director who's been honoured at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Sono, who directed “Himizu” and “Cold Fish,” apologised but stopped short of acknowledging guilt, and instead vowed to take “some kind of action” against Shukan Josei, the magazine that reported allegations he had sexually abused several women.

“I would like to reexamine my ways, taking to heart the lack of awareness I have shown as a director, and for those working around me,” Sono said in a statement this week through his office.

“But there are many assertions in the report that go contrary to the facts.”

Domenico Stinellis/Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
FILE - Director Miwa Nishikawa is one of the people who signed the petition to express outrage at sexual abuse in Japan's film industryDomenico Stinellis/Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

It may not be shocking that the #MeToo movement is rampant in a nation ranking at No. 120 in gender equality, far behind other Group of Seven industrialised nations, according to a study by the World Economic Forum.

Still, the timing, coming when “Drive My Car,” directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, just won its first Oscar for Japan in 13 years, couldn’t be more tragic.

The directors signing the petition and others say the problem is a longtime, open secret in the filmmaking world. What’s changing is that victims are speaking up, rather than suffering in silence.

When movie jobs are so competitive to start with, including assistant directing, editing, costuming, translating, producing, not just acting, the problem runs deep.

The statement by Kore-eda and other directors decrying sexual assaults stressed films cannot be made alone and required a team.

That means empowered people must respect everyone as partners, the directors said.

“We directors, regardless of individual abilities or personalities, especially, must unfailingly realise that our position of directing other people inherently carries with it a deep violence, and there lies that potential making it too easy for us to victimise others because of our overwhelming power,” they said.

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