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A journalist interviews an old woman who was forced into prostitution, just like many other Japanese women working in Asia outside of Japan during the first half of the 20th century. She worked in a Malaysian brothel called Sandakan 8.
Yoshiyuki Kono of Matsumoto suffered at the hands the Aum cult when he fell victim to a botched sarin gas attack. However, a perhaps greater tragedy then unfolded when the clueless Nagano cops fingered him as a suspect in the crime, and fed tidbits of info to the equally hapless media who joined in the public lynching of this innocent man.
Now a third travesty of justice has prevailed in the guise of this film.
Sarin gas is incredibly difficult to make. Dubious nation states around the globe have in the past tried and failed. Yet for months the blockheads at Nagano police believed that one man working alone managed it in an oil drum in his back garden. The Aum cult had long been linked to a series of scandals and crimes, yet Japan's so-called journalists happily cooperated in creating the myth of the mad killer scientist in the Matsumoto neighbourhood.
It is a story that would be more difficult to get wrong than right, but Kumai manages to do just that. Incredibly, he frames the tale as a high school project, a bunch of less than recalcitrant hacks sitting around indulging the puritanically naive teenagers. The moment when Kono is acquitted comes, gasp, just as the two high school kids are leaving the office. The journalists are shown hanging their heads in 'reflection'. The cop who went after Kono stoically walks off into the sunset. All the naughty cops and reporters are doing 'hansei' and make an unspoken promise to the reproachful children not to be naughty again. The sun sets on Matsumoto castle and all is right with the world once more.
How did such an unedifying recounting of this true tale make it to the screen? Watch the credits for the answer. The film was made with TV money, the same TV stations who gleefully jumped all over Kono hand-in-hand with their sister newspapers. The same stations who couldn't spell ethics. Quite simply, this film is a whitewash. Pure, unadulterated propaganda.
Yoshiyuki Kono certainly deserves better. At the very least, he deserved not to be insulted once again by his tormentors with this offensive excuse for a film.
Finally, watch the hacks blithely light up their ciggies in the room with the schoolkids. Nice to see Japan Tobacco keeping up their support of J-cinema.
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