It is a well-known history that the Imperial Japanese Army’s battles abroad changed ties in Far East Asia, and how Japan finished the Pacific War on August 15, 1945, after two mushroom-shaped clouds. However, many of the Japanese history books do not spare their pages for the battles occurred within their territory.
Documentary movie “Boy Soldiers: The Secret War in Okinawa,” directed by two non-Okinawa born directors, Chie Mikami and Hanayo Oya, gives in-depth information about the undeveloped history and the truth of the war in Okinawa, southern island of Japan. Furthermore, this movie points out that the rearming attempt of Japan will lead the state to resonate with the tide of war again.
AMP spoke with the directors to hear the details of histories and their documentary work and questioned about Japan’s recent conservative swings on the occasion of the screening at the 73rd Busan International Film Festival.
Boy Soldiers: The Secret War in Okinawa had its international premiere at Busan International Film Festival
(C: Chie Mikami H: Hanayo Oya)
Why do you think the massacre occurred in Okinawa is relatively unknown?
It has been more than seventy years since the outbreak of war in Okinawa. This is the only land war on the Japanese territory. Okinawa people have a different character from the character of other prefectures, so it was not a big deal to ask their opinions which contain opposite views from the view of Tokyo.
However, it is hard to raise the issue to the public because both victims of the war and soldiers drafted into the war are living in the same town, they still live next to each other. I believe it is quite challenging and difficult for them to be reminded of the memories of the war and denounce their neighbours.
But both of you are not from the island. What made you decide to make a movie with lesser-known history?
(C) I am interested in war and war-related stories. Okinawa already experienced battles in their land; however, they will deploy another Missile Defense system which follows ‘AirSea Battle’ doctrine, similar to the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) in Korea. Their land will be used as a battlefield again. But what for? This war machine only benefits the USA, and actually, the war itself is for the good of the USA. We must prevent war on the earth. I already produced four documentary films on the same subject. I visited Busan three years ago, and I came back to let people know more about the cause and effect of war.
The difference between Japan and Korea is that; many Korean people are aware of the issue of THAAD deployment, and they take action to prevent it. Unlike Korean people, however, only a few Japanese people know about the pending issues in Okinawa.
I can imagine the procedure of taking testimonials would not have been easy then, how was the process?
(C) In my case, I interviewed the soldiers from more than ten years ago. I often met the survivors and listened to their stories.
(H) Seven years ago during my master course, I lived in a town called Hatenuwa in Okinawa for one year. And I met some survivors and learned more about the history.
How was the collaborative work process? Did you do everything together or assign parts?
(H) Although we had done our investigation a long time ago, we were only given ten months for this movie. So we divided the task; I did the part of boy soldiers, Chie did War Spy, and we did the Self-Defense Forces part together.
There are three parties that are presented in the movie; boy soldiers, residences, and drafted soldiers. Retaining objectivity during the shooting is hard. How did you manage it?
I have never thought about the distance between the interviewees and me whenever I make a documentary film. Because you never listen to their original stories unless you get close. Sharing emotions and feelings is necessary. But I try to distance myself from the facts.
Are there still people suffering from the war?
Yes, there are a lot of people who have suffered from war trauma, PTSD. As you can find from the movie, Ryoko-san, the elderly still feels hurtful. Many sufferers try to overcome the painful memories but unfortunately, some people end up at mental hospital. It has been a long time but every June, the time when the war in Okinawa was officially finished, war-experienced people are startled by small fireworks.
How do you find the changes in local society? Getting conservative or remains the same?
Although it is not huge, I can see a small number of people are changed. People are not keen on this story as ever, but the number of audiences who watched the movie is rising steadily. And the domestic title of this movie is ‘Okinawa Spy War’, I think some people came to the theatre because of the title and expecting war movie, but they learned about the truth in the end. I think this movie also represents current changes.
And what is the next for you? Do you have a plan for the new title?
(H) I will be in the USA for a year. I have been working on American soldiers. I will chase the path of American soldiers dispatched overseas, especially to Okinawa. I will work on their experiences, although they were perpetrators of the war in Okinawa.
(C) I am bit exhausted now. Haha, I have been working in documentaries for a while. I wish to have some rest, but the reality never allows me to do. I have been updating my previous works on my website. This is on-going work, and I think I will do produce more documentaries.