You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Unbroken’ May Not Play in Japan

Angelina Jolie’s WWII drama “Unbroken” opened near the top of the U.S. box office, earning $47.3 million from its Christmas Day bow through its first weekend. In Japan, however, the pic is not scheduled for theaters, for reasons that Toho-Towa, which releases the movies of “Unbroken’s” U.S. distributor, Universal, declines to detail although it says it is still working on getting a release for the film. “We decide to distribute films on a case by case basis,” a spokesman says.

Clearer is the vitriolic response to the film from the Japanese right, including the many so-called “Net uyoku” (Net rightists), who may not belong to any organized group, but make their opinions known on 2channel and other popular Internet message boards and blog sites.

The film, which stars Jack O’Connell as WWII bombardier Louis Zamperini, features scenes of the captured hero being tortured by a sadistic Japanese army guard played by local pop star Miyavi. “The depictions of hard-to-believe inhuman acts make this an anti-Japanese film by definition,” wrote one post. Opined another: “Angelina Jolie puts on her ‘business smile’ and says ‘I love Japan’ when she’s here, but back in her own country she makes a fake ‘I hate Japan’ movie.”

Another distributor can buy the rights for a Japanese theatrical or home-vid release, but no local buyers have expressed interest.

Other foreign films that have incurred the wrath of rightist rage in Japan also have seen local distributors drag their feet on a theatrical release. A case in point is Australian documentary “The Cove,” a 2009 documentary by Louie Psihoyos that criticized the slaughter of dolphins by fishermen in the Western Japan port of Taiji. The pic’s scheduled June 2010 release in Japan was delayed by rightist protests, including loud demonstrations at the office of the local distributor, Unplugged. However, after prominent media figures, as well as the Directors Guild of Japan, charged that the cancellations amounted to the suppression of free speech, the film was finally shown both in theaters on a limited basis and online via the Nico Nico Douga video portal site.

Filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda, a Japanese documentary filmmaker based in New York, also has experienced right-wing hatred for his award-winning observational documentaries, including his “Campaign” duology that skewers Japanese-style politics.

“I get attacked by Net uyoku calling me a traitor, a left winger, a spy from China or Korea,” Soda says. “I’m sure this sort of thing has a chilling effect on not only the film industry, but also on the culture as a whole. I’m not surprised when some filmmakers, production companies or distributors self-censor their films to avoid being attacked.”

Or simply decline to distribute certain films altogether.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Leon Bridges Emily Bode Fashion

    New Designers Bring Fresh Perspectives to Red Carpets

    As awards season is gearing up, Variety looks at emerging designers that will make their mark on the many red carpets ahead: Bode For the guys, Emily Bode’s eponymous line of one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted clothing cut from antique fabrics and Victorian quilts has earned a following that includes Donald Glover, Dyllón Burnside, Ezra Miller, Leon Bridges, [...]

  • Alma Harrel Honey Boy

    'Honey Boy' DP Natasha Braier Took Nonfiction Approach to Fiction Feature

    The “Honey Boy” script that cinematographer Natasha Braier read prior to signing on with first-time narrative feature director Alma Har’el to shoot star and writer Shia LaBeouf’s intimate memoir-focused arthouse film was psychologically rich and emotionally fraught with no visual cues. It was a deep character study of the beginnings of his acting career with [...]

  • Queen and Slim

    AFI Fest Puts Nonfiction in the Spotlight

    Documentaries will play a more prominent role than ever before at the AFI Fest, which kicks off Nov. 14. While AFI Fest 2018 featured 15 documentary features playing in various categories, this year’s edition of Los Angeles-based fest will play host to 22 feature docs, 16 of which will screen in the fest’s new documentary [...]

  • Ayesha Curry and Stephen Curry attends

    Ayesha Curry Honored With Variety's Vivant Tastemaker Award at Napa Valley Film Festival

    The rooftop bar at the tony Archer Hotel in the heart of downtown Napa made a stunning backdrop for Variety’s Vivant party on Nov. 13. Vivant was launched at the Napa Valley Film Festival, which opened Nov. 13 with “Just Mercy.”  Variety executive VP of content Steven Gaydos introduced Variety Vivant Tastemaker honoree Ayesha Curry [...]

  • Dwayne Johnson

    Dwayne Johnson's 'Black Adam' Movie Sets Release Date

    Dwayne Johnson’s long-in-development “Black Adam” movie is slated to hit theaters just in time for the holidays. The New Line Cinema film film will debut on Dec. 22, 2021, five days after the release of James Cameron’s long-gestating “Avatar” sequel. Johnson has been attached to play the anti-hero for most of this decade. Jaume Collet-Serra, [...]

  • Sponge on the Run Trailer

    SpongeBob SquarePants Meets Keanu Reeves in 'Sponge on the Run' Trailer

    Millennials and Gen-Zers, say goodbye to the David Hasselhoff “SpongeBob” cameos of your childhood. According to the “Sponge on the Run” trailer, Keanu Reeves, or rather his floating head, will make an appearance in the upcoming film premiering May 22, 2020. The latest film in the SpongeBob franchise follows the yellow sponged hero and his [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content