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Yasukuni (2007)

Controversy abounds as Japanese officials honor the deceased at the legendary Yasukuni shrine, where swords used to kill Chinese soldiers were famously forged. Few know about the shrine's eerie past and the mysterious sword inside.



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Credited cast:
Naoharu Kariya ...
Jun'ichirô Koizumi ...


Controversy abounds as Japanese officials honor the deceased at the legendary Yasukuni shrine, where swords used to kill Chinese soldiers were famously forged. Few know about the shrine's eerie past and the mysterious sword inside.

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12 August 2009 (USA)  »

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YASUKUNI has taken ten years to make it When the director Li Ying met producer Ai Wan for the first time, it was outside on the parking lot of a hip live music venue during a smoking break in Beijing, China. That year was the 8th year of making this film for Li Ying. See more »

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A ramble through troubled pastures
26 November 2008 | by See all my reviews

'Yasukuni' is a documentary about the Yasukuni Shrine where Japanese people may pay their respects to the soldiers and others who died during conflicts over the last century or so of Japan's military past. About two and a half million people are enshrined there, the mass majority of whom died during the Second World War, 1000 of them were convicted of war crimes, just over ten of those being Class-A war criminals; responsible for the massacre of millions of civilians of other Asian countries and thousands of prisoners of war from the Allied forces. It remains a deeply controversial issue and is still a key reason for the poor political relationship between China and Japan and also Korea and Japan, and the strong feelings of dislike and even hatred which exist amongst these countries' peoples. I saw this documentary with directly-translated subtitles, which means that they have been put through a translation device, consequently, I could not follow all the subtleties of what was said. Fortunately, a documentary's main purpose is to provoke thought, and this film certainly satisfies that aim. Director Li Ying has added no voice-over narration and frequently leaves the camera running for extended periods, which allows the events and non-events to unravel in a loose and naturalistic way. We see extensive footage of ceremonies, protests against, and shows of support for, the shrine, all filmed by a shaky, hand-held camera. There are reels of footage of a 90 year old sword-maker, whose frequent silences and non-responses may tell us more about Japanese culture and feelings about Yasukuni than any direct answer could. At one point we see him fiddling with his stereo-system for over 3 minutes whilst muttering that the buttons are too small, just to show us what he listens to of an evening. Yes, over three minutes of a ninety year old man wrestling with a tape-player; if you want rapid-fire, flashy edits and action then don't come near this film; if, however, you are looking for a deeper meditation on a difficult subject then you are in the right place. The swords that he makes are shown to be a vital symbol of Japanese spirit and he is humbly proud of his life's work, whilst an underlying sinister feeling grows because we know that those swords were used to behead countless innocents. Several other main issues are acknowledged including Former-President Junichiro Koizumi's support for Yasukuni, and the visit of a Taiwianese delegation trying to remove their relatives from the shrine. Without accurate subtitles I could not gauge how much the issue of Japanese revisionism was raised, which was a little frustrating as this ability or inability to look history fairly and honestly in the face is perhaps the most vital issue of all for the Yasukuni Shrine. Overall, those with clear and uncompromising views either for or against paying respects at Yasukuni will probably have little to complain about if they see this film; it is well-balanced and appears to remain as neutral as possible. For those people who wish to explore this important and complex topic, then I think this documentary is an excellent place to start, although it will require your patience.

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