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Unbroken has been having a tough few months. Though it received pretty positive critical acclaim, it got snubbed by the Golden Globes. Then Angelina Jolie woke up this morning to find that it barely received love from the Oscars. Now, in a not all that surprising move, it’s receiving no love from Japan.
As reported by Variety, Toho-Towa, which releases Universal’s films in Japan, said they "decide to distribute films on a case by case basis." In the case of Unbroken, it still has yet to secure a release. The issue? Though a spokesperson wouldn’t be specific, it’s due to the fact that there’s been so much controversy in Japan surrounding the portrayal of its people. Those who’ve seen the film know that you pretty much walk out of the theater hating the guts of the sadistic Japanese internment camp general who’s constantly beating on Jack O’Connell’s Louis Zamperini, for which some have criticized the film.
Right-wing nationalists in Japan, who refer to themselves as "Net uyoku" (Net rightists), have been blowing up Internet message boards and 2channel with their distaste for Unbroken. One comment claimed the film’s subject made it "an anti-Japanese film by definition." Elsewhere, Hiromichi Moteki, the secretary general of a national group called The Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact Hiromichi, told The Telegraph:
It's pure fabrication. … If there is no verification of the things he said, then anyone can make such claims. This movie has no credibility and is immoral."
On the other side of things are people like Matthew M. Burke, a reporter who made a career by exclusively covering Japanese POW camps. He also just so happens to be the grandson of a marine who helped transport prisoners of these camps after the war ended. Burke was hesitant to engage people like Moteki in speaking on the subject, but he told Yahoo Movies that anyone who refutes the harsh treatment of prisoners detained at these Japanese camps during the war "is not being honest with themselves" or the country's history.
As for Japanese pop star Miyavi, who portrayed the controversial general, he said he was also hesitant in attaching himself to such a project. After discussions with Jolie, though, his fears were put to rest. Though he says "it's still tough to watch this film," the whole point of Unbroken is the hopeful ending at the end. Despite all the trials Zamperini had to endure, he chooses to forgive instead of seeking revenge.
All in all, it’s a bit of a shit show. Toho-Towa promises they’re still planning to release the film, but things are not looking good. Not even local distributors are expressing interest in buying Unbroken. Perhaps it should take a hint from The Interview controversy and make it a VOD offering.