Japan enters foreign-language race

Courtroom drama picked as Oscar entry

“I Just Didn’t Do It” (Soredemo boku wa yattenai), Masayuki Suo’s courtroom drama, has been nommed as Japan’s entry for the foreign-language film Oscar, the Motion Picture Producers Assn. of Japan announced Friday.

Produced by Altamira Pictures, Fuji TV and Toho, released in Japan in January by Toho, the pic limns the legal struggles of a salaryman accused of molesting a teenage girl on a crowded commuter train. Ryo Kase (“Letters From Iwo Jima”) stars as the salaryman, Koji Yakusho (“Memoirs of a Geisha”) as his defense lawyer.

Helmer Suo, who is best known in the West for his 1996 hit romantic comedy “Shall We Dance?” spent years researching the Japanese legal system for the pic. Its frank social advocacy, in protesting a legal system weighted almost entirely in favor of the police and prosecution (the successful prosecution rate in criminal cases is more than 99%), is not only a departure for comedy specialist Suo, but rare among Japanese commercial pics.

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