The film, stars Jack O’Connell as WWII bombardier and Olympic medallist, Louis Zamperini.
The picture was last year the subject of protests and threats by Japanese right wingers. They persuaded Toho-Towa, the usual distributor of Universal’s titles, to delay the film’s release indefinitely. The film will now open in February 2016 — though on a much smaller scale.
Indie distributor Bitters End will now handle the release. For the moment it is pointing to a single screen release. The film is set to screen at Theater Image Forum, a venue in Tokyo’s Shibuya district.
Jolie repeatedly called for “Unbroken”‘s Japan bow. She said that the film was not, as opponents claimed, anti-Japanese, despite its portrayal of a sadistic POW camp guard, by pop singer/actor Miyavi.
Opening in the U.S. in December 2014, with Universal distributing, the film earned $162 million worldwide. Given the small scale of the Japanese release, the global will likely not change substantially.
The film was expected to release in Japan in January or February this year, but was attacked by so-called “net uyoku” (net rightists), who typically do not belong to any organized group, but make their opinions known on 2channel, popular Internet message boards, and blog sites.
“The depictions of hard-to-believe inhuman acts make this an anti-Japanese film by definition,” wrote one blogger. “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,” said another.
Confirmation of the Bitters End release came Thursday, the opening day of the 2015 Tokyo International Film Festival.
The 2009 festival was also the venue for ugly scenes which preceded the halting of a planned theatrical release of Australian documentary “The Cove.” 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.
Others who have come under fire from Japan’s right wingers include New York-based Kazuhiro Soda, whose award-winning observational documentaries, including his “Campaign” duology that skewered Japanese-style politics.