Waichi Okumura is a compelling subject. He confesses to murdering civilians during WWII, as well as rape. He is not only perpetrator but victim, commanded to stay on in China and fight for the Nationalists at the war's end. He is now an old man, but an angry one - he perseveres in looking for evidence to expose the Japanese government's lie that these men stayed on in China voluntarily. The irony is that the evidence of this forgotten misdeed on the part of the Japanese government is powerfully present in Ikeya's film.
This is an important film that deserves a large audience. It is a brave film - Okumura takes his fight to the present-day right-wingers at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, and the vitriolic response he meets shows the passions these events still evoke in veterans. Ikeya also makes a brave choice, swimming against the current of resurgent nationalism in Japanese film-making - Otoko no Yamato and Ashita E No Yuigon being examples of recent attempts to put a sentimental gloss on Japan's WWII actions.
Ikeya frames Okumura matter-of-factly and tries to let the players speak for themselves. Camera-work and editing are unobtrusive, though poor sound recording hampers the first ten minutes - not really a concern for non-Japanese audiences who will be accessing subtitles. Okumura is a complex man caught up in complex events. When the film was finished I didn't particularly feel I liked Okumura. But I was glad I had met him.
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