Tojo biopic scores

Toei pleased with controversial pic's B.O.

TOKYO — Toei’s controversial movie about convicted war criminal Gen. Hideki Tojo, which was the focus of a storm of international protest, posted box office revenue of 180 million yen ($1.32 million) in its opening weekend.

“Pride — The Fateful Moment” opened May 23 and is running in 145 theaters across Japan. Toei said it was pleased by the early results. “The movie is not going to be a blockbuster but we believe it will be a hit,” a Toei official said.

“Pride” has been slammed as a historical whitewash by China and North Korea, while it has been hailed by conservative factions in Japan which have long argued that the country’s militarism was a self-defense mechanism designed to thwart Western imperialism.

A union of Toei workers also criticized the movie for its heroic portrayal of Tojo.

Draws diverse audience

Toei said it was surprised that the film was able to attract younger moviegoers. Although most people who took in “Pride” were over 40 years old, Toei said a large number of high school and university students also packed theaters for the biopic.

Tokyo police reported that they assigned 20 personnel to movie theaters in case of any violent protests to the film, but there were no incidents over the weekend.

“Pride,” primarily about the Tokyo war crimes tribunal, argues that Tojo was not a criminal, but a leader who entered into war for the self-defense of Japan. It is scheduled for a six week run in theaters, and Toei is interested in taking the film overseas.

In advertisements for the film, Toei billed the movie as a struggle between Tojo and America. Headlines for the ads read: “A solitary battle for the pride of the Japanese nation.”

The movie comes 50 years after Tojo was hanged for war crimes. He became prime minister in 1941 and headed the government when the decision was made to attack Pearl Harbor and invade other nations. He stepped down in 1944 with the fall of Saipan, which put U.S. bombers in range of the Japanese islands.