Japan film festival backtracks on scrapping of ‘comfort women’ movie screening

A film festival in suburban Tokyo will show a documentary on the highly controversial issue of Japan’s wartime military brothels, organizers said Sunday after coming under fire for dropping the movie.

The film’s screening was cancelled last week after concerns over the safety of volunteers and objections from local officials.

But the decision was reversed after “lots of voices offering cooperation to address our safety concerns,” a member of the organizing committee told AFP, who said the festival would increase the number of volunteers to boost security.

The controversy over the film comes after an exhibit in central Japan was shut down for two months earlier this year after it received threats for displaying a statue of a “comfort woman,” and with relations between Japan and South Korea badly frayed over wartime issues. Comfort women is an euphemism of women who worked at those brothels, including those did so against their will.

The documentary “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of The Comfort Women Issue” examines the debate the over comfort women.

Some nationalists insist the women were prostitutes, claiming there is no documented evidence that the Japanese military was ordered to recruit women against their will.

Some of the people interviewed in the film, by Japanese-American director Miki Dezaki, have filed suit against him, claiming they were not aware the interviews would be used in a movie for public release.

The city of Kawasaki, which provided nearly half of the festival’s budget, reportedly expressed concerns about the lawsuit in its conversations with organizers.

Local officials however denied pressuring organizers to drop the film, with one telling AFP they merely questioned “whether showing such a film is appropriate.”

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