Following ScreenDaily.com's March 18 story of controversial documentary Yasukuni's cancellation at Tokyo's Wald 9 multiplex, the remaining cinemas in Tokyo and Osaka set to screen the film have followed suit.
Ginza's Cine Pathos, Cinemart in Roppongi, Q-AX Cinema in the Shibuya district, and Cinemart Shinsaibashi in Osaka have all decided to withdraw from exhibiting Li Ying's documentary ahead of its April 12 release through Argo Pictures.
The latest trouble for the embattled film follows exhibitor T-Joy's decision to cancel the film's run at its flagship Wald 9 multiplex in Shinjuku, fearing protests from right wing groups against the film's release could cause problems for neighbouring tenants. Humax Cinema Ltd, which operates Cine Pathos, cited similar concerns today. Right wing sound trucks reportedly held protests outside of the cinema in late March.
These developments followed death threats against Li's production company Dragon Films and an unusual request for the partially government-funded film to be inspected by members of Japan's ruling LDP party in mid-March. Certain party members including Tomomi Inada feel the film shouldn't have been funded and may seek a refund of the $77,000 subsidy.
The situation has left the film without any theatrical distribution in major centers. Screenings are still scheduled in smaller cities such as Sapporo and Hiroshima, but Argo Pictures is not optimistic.
The Directors Guild of Japan, of which Li is a member, also issued a statement warning against ' suppression of free and creative activities of movie directors who express ideas.'
Meanwhile, Yasukuni was awarded The Humanitarian Award for Best Documentary at the Hong Kong International Film Festival (March 17 - April 4). It has also screened at other key festivals such Pusan, Berlin and Sundance.
Ten years in the making, the meticulously researched film examines the history and current debate surrounding Yasukuni Shrine, where the spirits of Japan's 2.47 million war dead are enshrined. Included in the list of souls are the names of over 1,000 soldiers convicted of war crimes, including Class-A convicted war criminals such as General Hideki Tojo. The film also captures the shrine's last remaining sword smith creating his final blade, considered a physical embodiment of the shrine.
Veteran documentarian Li, whose career began in China in the 1980s, won the Netpac Prize for Asian cinema at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2000 for his documentary 2H, about a former Kuomintang general living in Tokyo.