The Apology (2016) | Human Rights Watch Film Festival

March 4th, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Tiffany Hsiung; Documentary; Canada 2016, 104 min.

Filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung’s debut is a moving but never sentimental tribute to three elderly women from China, South Korea and the Philippines. They all have something in common: During the Japanese occupation of the South-Asian subcontinent during WWII, they were amongst the 200,000 prisoners, and were confined in so-called “Comfort Houses”, where they were raped for years, many of them just thirteen or fourteen years old. For decades they have been protesting and campaigning, asking the Japanese government – in vain – for an apology.

Grandma Gil lives in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China and Grandma Adela in the Philippines. It is now seventy years, since they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery – and have lived silently with their ‘shame’ for most of their lives, they are spending the last years of their lives campaigning. Even their closest relatives, were not told about their ordeal for decades, in some cases. The stories are grim: the girls were abducted on the streets, or taken from their families, the parents being beaten up. One woman reports, that she was beaten unconscious when she entered the “Comfort House” – and raped brutally before gaining consciousness. Others were sterilised, some had babies, which did not survive. After the war, hardly anyone was aware of the tragedy, since the survivors felt guilty and did not want to bring shame to their families.But this has changed: Gil, the spiritual leader in South Korea, has arranged demonstrations in front of the Japanese embassy every Wednesday since 1992. Number one thousand was ‘celebrated’ with a golden statue of an elderly woman placed in front the embassy building.

But the Japanese reaction is vicious: in Osaka (mainly) young people organise a counter demonstration, calling “for the Korean ‘whores’ to go home”. And Mayor Hasimoto, MP of the Restauration Party, goes on TV, to declare, that the “Comfort Homes” were a necessity. Gil and her followers find a kinder audience at a Japanese Women’s University, where one girl breaks down in tears, having heard for the first time in her life about the suffering of these poor women. THE APOLOGY ends with Gil speaking in front of UN, having gathered more than 1.5 million signatures for a petition, asking Japan for an official apology. You have to see THE APOLOGY, even if it breaks your heart. AS


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