The upcoming World War II film Unbroken has not been released internationally yet, but it has already outraged many Japanese nationalists who are attempting to ban the film in Japan. Some are so outraged that they are even extending the ban to the film’s director, Angelina Jolie.
Unbroken tells the shocking and inspiring tale of real-life WWII hero and former Olympic distance runner Louis Zamperini. Inspired by his 2010 biography written by Laura Hillenbrand, the film shows how Zamperini survived 47 days in the Pacific Ocean following a plane crash, only to spend the next two years enduring brutal treatment as a Japanese prisoner of war.
Sadly, Zamperini passed away at the age of 97 on July 2, 2014, but not before creating a strong bond with his neighbor Angelina Jolie.
“I imagine that for the last 10-something years, [Zamperini has] been sitting there having a coffee in the morning and wondering who’s going to make [his story into a] movie,” Jolie told Tom Brokaw on TODAY. “And I’ve been sitting in my room laying there thinking, ‘What am I supposed to be doing with my life? I wanna do something important … I need some help. I need some guidance. Where is it?’ And it was right outside my window.”
Despite the film’s good intentions, Japan is enraged with the negative portrayal of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. A particularly gruesome passage in Zamperini’s biography mentions the occurrence of cannibalism.
“There was absolutely no cannibalism,” argues Mutsuhiro Takeuchi, a nationalist-leaning educator. “That is not our custom.”
Although there are many, such as Mindy Kotler of the Washington research center Asia Policy Point, who point out that there is plenty of documentation on the torture and abuse inflicted on Japanese POWs, The Review Journal explains that this is not the first time Japanese nationalists disagree:
“The release of Unbroken comes at a time [where] some in Japan are downplaying the country’s colonization of its Asian neighbors and the aggressive acts carried out by the Imperial Army during World War II.
For example, some politicians dispute the role of Japanese soldiers in the Rape of Nanjing, which began in 1937, in which an estimated 300,000 Chinese were killed. They say that is a vast over count.
Similarly, they reject historical studies that show women from several Asian countries, especially Korea, were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military. Some oppose the term “sex slave,” which the U.N. uses, preferring the euphemistic “comfort women.””
Despite the controversial reaction, Jolie is moving forward with her film. The world premiere was held in Sydney, Australia last month.
The audience seemed particularly impressed with actor Takamasa Ishihara (more commonly known as Miyavi) who plays “The Bird,” a Japanese prison guard who is especially cruel to Zamperini.
Don’t be surprised if Miyavi looks familiar. He has been in the limelight as a popular J-pop star since 2002, but decided to put aside his lip rings and intricate hairstyles for this challenging role.
“As a musician, I questioned whether I should take a break from my craft to pursue this role,” Miyavi said in a statement last October. “After meeting Angie, it became clear to me that an underlying theme to this story is forgiveness. This resonated with me because that is exactly what I want express through my music.”
Unbroken will debut in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day. Check out the official trailer below.