TOKYO (AP) — A #MeToo crisis is raging in the Japanese film industry.
A petition signed by high-profile personalities, including Cannes Palme d’Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda, Cannes Jury Prize winner Koji Fukada, and the director of “Under the Open Sky” (“Subarashiki sekai in Japanese) Miwa Nishikawa, expresses outrage over cases of sexual abuse in the industry.
“These acts are unforgivable,” says the letter, which calls for an end to such acts.
The call came after the sudden cancellation of the premieres of two films directed by Hideo Sakaki, ‘Mitsugetsu’ and ‘Hazard Lamp’, after Japanese magazine Shukan Bunshun reported sexual abuse allegations made against him by several women.
His production company reported sexual abuse and announced that Sakaki was gone. Sakaki apologized in a statement to fans and colleagues for the cancellations, while pointing out inaccuracies in the report that he did not elaborate.
Actor Houka Kinoshita has put his career on hold after two women accused him of demanding sex against his will a decade ago. A TV drama series aired earlier this week with all of its scenes deleted.
“I am unable to come before you and continue my entertainment work after what I have done, and I will be taking an indefinite leave,” Kinoshita said in a statement.
Charges have also been leveled against Shion Sono, a director who was honored at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Sono, who directed “Himizu” and “Cold Fish” (“Tsumetai nettaigyo”), apologized but did not admit guilt, instead promising to take “some kind of action” against Shukan Josei, the magazine which reported accusations that he had sexually abused multiple women.
“I would like to re-examine my habits, taking seriously the lack of awareness I have shown as a director and to those who work around me,” Sono said in a statement released by his office this week. “But there are many claims in the report that are contrary to the facts.”
It’s perhaps unsurprising that #MeToo is proliferating in a country that ranks 120th for gender equality, far behind other industrialized countries in the Group of Seven, according to a study by the World Economic Forum.
Yet the timing couldn’t be more tragic: Japan has just won its first Oscar in 13 years with Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car” (“Doraibu mai kâ”).
The directors who sign the petition and others say the problem is a long-standing open secret in the film world. What changes is that the victims express themselves instead of suffering in silence.
When movie jobs are so competitive to begin with, not just for actors but also for assistant directors, editors, costume designers, translators and producers, the problem runs deep.
The statement from Kore-eda and other directors speaking out against sexual assault underscores that films cannot be made alone; They need a team.
This means people in positions of power must respect everyone as a partner, the administrators said.
“We directors, regardless of our individual abilities or personalities in particular, must unfailingly realize that our position of directing other people inherently carries deep violence, and therein lies that potential that too easily allows us to victimizing others because of our overwhelming power,” they said.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter as https://twitter.com/yurikageyama.
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