Saturday, July 14, 2007

Meanwhile on CNN, a Yasukuni Story Broke Out in the Last 24 Hours…

In fact, the Reuters wire makes a scrupulous effort to tell the fascinating story of Li Ying, a Chinese film director who is releasing a documentary on Yasukuni that he has been working on for the last ten years. The article is filled with nuances, some of them likely unintended, but here they are:

Mr. Li has been living in Japan for the last seventeen years. The Tienanmen Incident occurred in 1989. This does not look like a coincidence. The fact that the Reuters wire comes out of Beijing though, where Mr. Li is seeking a permit to broadcast the documentary, speaks to the passing of the years. The Reuters wire quotes Mr. Li, "I believe there will be no problem [in getting the permit]. …Wouldn't it be ridiculous if this film can be shown in Japan and South Korea, but not China? The best would be if we could show it in all three at once." That he even has to consider such a possibility reflects the enormous post-Koizumi, pre-Beijing 2008 changes in China's approach to its relationship with Japan. As well as how much further China still has to go before it can be a state that no longer systemically manipulates dissent.

In its reference to "the Nanjing Massacre, or Rape of Nanking," Reuters finds a way to avoid attention being diverted to another stage by giving a death-toll estimate of "about 142,000 people, according to Allied estimates> after the war."

I have a couple of quibbles:

The headline Chinese Director Opens Wounds with Yasukuni Shrine Film is misleading. The wound has never closed. And for some, it never will; for there is no answer that will satisfy all.

The wire says, "The film follows Japanese veterans who believe their nation doesn't honor its war dead enough, as well as young Japanese protesters beaten by worshippers at the shrine.

"'I make Yasukuni like a stage, and all these people reveal themselves upon it," explained Li."

But this trope excludes most of the people of Japan, who eschew this stage altogether. They must already have been a majority when he started filming ten years ago. And the future does not look good for the kind of people who beat up protesters. The right wing activists have seen their ranks thin over the years. (Have the end of the bubble economy and the onset of an aging society taken the wind out of their sails?) Would Mr. Li be able to secure the same footage today? The battle seems to be taking place more and more on the Internet and the media, rather than on the streets.

That's about it. Except:

According to the Reuters wire, "Li's film was made with assistance and funding from Japan and Korea, while post-production support came from the Beijing Film Academy and a private Chinese production house." Of course the Japanese support must have been from private sources. But where does the Beijing Film Academy get its money? Japan, like it or not, is a pluralistic democracy. It is important to keep that in mind in interpreting the meaning of actions and attributing responsibility for them, as well as determining the political boundaries of the doable.

I may be giving this some more thought. But this is where I'm at on this.

No comments: