IDFA - Yasukuni
Li Ying / JP, CN, 2007 / 123 min.
Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine was founded in 1869 to commemorate all those who have died in service to the emperor and the nation. Within the temple, a special sword symbolizes the two-and-a-half million “national heroes.”
Since 1978, they have included 14 convicted war criminals, and the temple has increasingly become a place of pilgrimage for right-wing nationalists. In 2006, Prime Minister Koizumi”s visit to the temple sparked international outrage. Meanwhile, China and South Korea believe their former occupier has never properly apologized for its past deeds.
Li Ying”s documentary about the temple and the smith who made the ceremonial sword reveals how in Japan—unlike in Germany—the nation”s wartime past has remained largely unaddressed, and is still a highly sensitive issue. Born in China, the director is the first person in Japan to make a film about this subject—it took him 10 years to make. Li Ying”s style is neutral and observational, but he often moves with his camera among the worshipers, demonstrators and riot police.
The premiere of the film, which extremist politicians initially attempted to ban, took place under heavy guard.