Japanese cinema faces its #MeToo moment

The Japanese film industry is having its own #MeToo moment with several well-known directors and actors caught up in sexual abuse scandals.

A group of the industry’s biggest names have now signed a petition to express their outrage at the situation, including Cannes Palme d’Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda, Cannes Jury Prize winner Koji Fukada and “Under the Sky” director Miwa Nishikawa. .

“These acts are inexcusable,” the statement said, calling for them to stop.

The outburst comes after the release of two Hideo Sakaki-directed films, “Mitsugetsu” and “Hazard Lamp,” was abruptly canceled after a Japanese magazine reported on allegations of sexual violence by multiple women.

His production company denounced sexual abuse and announced that Sakaki had left. Sakaki apologized in a statement to fans and co-workers for the cancellations, while pointing out inaccuracies in the report, which she did not specify.

Actor Houka Kinoshita has put his career on hold after two women accused him of demanding sex against his will a decade ago. A television drama series aired earlier this week with all of its scenes removed.

“I am unable to come before you and continue my entertainment work after what I have done, and will be taking an indefinite leave of absence,” Kinoshita said in a statement.

Accusations have also been made against Shion Sono, a director who has been honored at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Sono, who directed “Himizu” and “Cold Fish,” apologized but stopped short of admitting guilt, instead vowing to take “some kind of action” against Shukan Josei, the magazine that reported accusations that he had sexually abused several women.

“I would like to reexamine my ways, taking seriously the lack of awareness I have shown as a director and to those who work around me,” Sono said in a statement this week through his office.

“But there are a lot of claims in the report that go against the facts.”

It may not be surprising that the #MeToo movement is proliferating in a nation that ranks 120th for gender equality, far behind other industrialized nations in the Group of Seven, according to a study by the World Economic Forum.

Still, the moment, when “Drive My Car,” directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, has just won its first Oscar for Japan in 13 years, couldn’t be more tragic.

The directors who sign the petition and others say the problem is a long-standing open secret in the world of cinema. What is changing is that the victims speak, instead of suffering in silence.

When film jobs are so competitive to begin with, including assistant director, editing, wardrobe, translation, production, not just acting, the problem runs deep.

The statement by Kore-eda and other directors denouncing sexual assaults emphasized that movies cannot be made alone and require a crew.

That means empowered people must respect everyone as a partner, the directors said.

“We directors, regardless of individual abilities or personalities, especially, must unerringly realize that our position of directing other people inherently carries profound violence, and therein lies that potential that makes it all too easy for us to victimize others. others due to our overwhelming power. ,” they said.

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