Preview by: Jack Foley
A JAPANESE film about a freed hostage who is rejected by society
has been turned into a damning indictment of the country's attitude
towards such victims at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Bashing, from director, Masahiro Kobayashi, is a fictional tale
designed to pass comment on Japan's attitude towards hostages
that have been freed.
But it was shown at Cannes in the same week that another Japanese
security contractor was taken hostage in Iraq.
And contains many parallels between the plight of another aid
worker, Nahoko Takato, who was kidnapped in Iraq and then freed
Kobayashi insisted that the film was not intended as a commentary
specifically on his country's attitude to people taken hostage
in Iraq, but more 'the harassment of the hostages (when they return)'.
And he admitted to feeling a little perplexed about Japan's attitude
towards such victims, where many are ostracised.
Speaking through an interpreter at Cannes, he attempted to explain:
"It's perhaps due to the fact that Prime Minister, Junichiro
Koizumi, adopted a very negative stance.
"He rejected responsibility for their [hostages] acts and
said it was up to the hostages to shoulder the responsibility."
He also pointed out that the Japanese media had also swayed opinion
against freed hostages.
The film itself stars Fusako Urabe
as Yuko, a former hostage who returns to Japan after being freed
from the Middle East.
Six months on, her return is proving to be much more of an ordeal,
given that it seems the whole of Japanese society is against her
after being embarrassed and horrified at the international attention
Yuko is 'bashed' every day by insults in the street, anonymous
phone calls and even physical violence.
Fired from her job, her isolation from the outside world deepens
along with her despair.
After losing her only supporter - her father - she begins to
think the unthinkable: to return to the only place where the expressions
on people's faces aren't cold or filled with anger, to the only
place she has ever felt needed.
While buying Japanese sweets for the Middle Eastern children
she allows herself a secret little smile.
The film is clearly inspired by the story of three Japanese hostages
in Iraq, who were released in April, 2004, even though Prime Minister
Koizumi rejected the kidnappers' demands that Japanese forces
withdrew from the country.
Two of them planned to return to Iraq, creating controversy in
Japan, where many criticised their decision to travel to such
a dangerous region in the first place.
It remains to be seen how Japanese audiences react to Bashing,
given that it tackles one of society's 'taboos' in such unapologetic
and challenging fashion.
The film was one of 21 films competing for the coveted Palme