Tokyo film fest brings comfort for war sex slaves

| AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 4 Nov 2019

A film festival in suburban Tokyo will show a documentary on the highly controversial issue of Japan's wartime military brothels, organizers said yesterday after coming under fire for dropping the movie.

The film's screening was canceled last week after concerns over the safety of volunteers and objections from local officials.

But the decision was reversed after "lots of voices offering cooperation to address our safety concerns," a member of the organizing committee said, adding that the festival would increase the number of volunteers to boost security.

The controversy over the film comes after an exhibit in central Japan was shut down for two months this year after it received threats for displaying a statue of a wartime sex slave, and with relations between Japan and South Korea badly frayed over wartime issues.

The documentary Shusenjo: The Main Battleground of The Comfort Women Issue examines the debate over so-called "comfort women", who were forced to work in military brothels during World War II.

Mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women - mostly from Korea, but also other parts of Asia including China - were forced to work in the brothels.

But some nationalists insist the women were prostitutes, claiming there is no documented evidence that the Japanese military was ordered to recruit women against their will.

Some of the people interviewed in the film, by Japanese-American director Miki Dezaki, have filed suit against him, claiming they were not aware the interviews would be used in a movie for public release.

Kawasaki City on Tokyo's outskirts, which provided nearly half of the festival's budget, reportedly expressed concerns about the lawsuit in its conversations with organizers.

However, local officials denied pressuring organizers to drop the film, with one saying that they merely questioned "whether showing such a film is appropriate."

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