Argo consults lawyers over ‘Yasukuni’

Distributor hopes to dodge cuts to feature

TOKYO — Controversy continues over “Yasukuni,” helmer Li Ying’s documentary about the shrine to Japan’s war dead.

Distrib Argo Pictures is consulting lawyers after shrine officials demanded that footage of the Tokyo monument be cut from the pic, which took the docu prize at the Hong Kong Film Festival.

They allege that Li did not tell them he was making a film when he asked for permission to shoot. “He did not follow proper procedure,” they said in a statement on the shrine website.

Argo said it would respond before the two-week deadline but would go ahead with screenings in the meantime.

Naoji Kariya, a swordmaker who is a major figure in the docu, has also asked that his footage be edited out. Argo has declined.

The news comes after four theaters in Tokyo and one in Osaka pulled the pic before its April 23 bow, citing concerns over protests.

Tokyo music club Loft Plus One is planning to hold a private screening on Friday, inviting mainly right-wing groups that have been attacking the film.

Argo is also holding a press screening on April 23 in Tokyo, but plans no other special screenings before “Yasukuni” opens in May at 21 venues across the country.

Chinese helmer Li spent 10 years making “Yasukuni,” about the shrine where millions of Japanese war dead are memorialized, including Class A war criminals.

The shrine has been a lightning rod for controversy for decades, with opponents viewing it as a symbol of Japanese militarism and defenders seeing it as a repository of true Japanese values and beliefs.

Among those in the latter camp are members of the Liberal Democratic Party, who are upset that the Agency for Cultural Affairs underwrote “Yasukuni” to the tune of $75,000.

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