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Japanese Festival Screens Comfort Women Documentary After Earlier Cancellation

The Kawasaki Shinyuri Film Festival has reversed its previous decision, and on Monday went ahead with a screening of the controversial documentary “Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue.” Last week, the festival sparked outcry when it announced the film’s cancellation.

The change of heart came after the festival, which is held in the Tokyo metro sub-center of Kawasaki, Oct. 27-Nov. 4, was roundly criticized by fans, critics and filmmakers, including directors Hirokazu Koreeda and Kazuya Shiraishi, both of whom had films in the festival.

Local firm, Wakamatsu Production announced the withdrawal of two of its films, including Shiraishi’s indie film world drama “Dare to Stop Us.”

Directed by Japanese-American Miki Dezaki, “Shusenjo” examines the plight of women recruited by the Japanese military to provide sexual services during World War II. Following the film’s April release in Japan, right wingers attempted to stop screenings, while several of Dezaki’s subjects filed a law suit claiming that he had used their interviews without permission.

The festival, which had cited safety issues as a reason for the cancellation, said that it recruited additional volunteers to provide security.

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Critics, however, asserted that pressure from the Kawasaki city government, which provides nearly half of the festival’s budget, was a more significant factor in the cancellation. In a statement, Shiraishi and scriptwriter Junichi Inoue had described it as a “murder of free speech.”

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