Friday, October 24, 2008

Bashing (Masahiro Kobayashi, 2005)

Fusako Urabe as Yuko in Bashing (2005).

Masahiro Kobayashi's Bashing is a fictional story based on the real events of Japanese people being taken as hostages in Iraq in 2004 and, upon release, not being very welcome back in their home country, with even the prime minister at the time, Junichiro Koizumi, condemning them for travelling to a war zone. According to articles about the subject, the former hostages were accused of causing the Japanese government trouble and embarrassing the country of Japan and its people. The general opinion was one of "It's your own fault" and that it was a matter of personal responsibility. The articles also says that the Japanese government charged them for their plane tickets home, and said that they should cover at least part of the cost for freeing them.

The film is about a woman, Yuko, who volunteered to go to Iraq as an aid-worker. After being taken hostage and then released, Yuko has returned to Japan where she is harrassed wherever she goes and her and her family are recieving threatening phone calls. When she is fired from her job for causing a bad mood among her co-workers just by being there, and her father is fired from the company where he has worked for 30 years because they want to protect their image, she decides to go back to Iraq.

While most reviews have mentioned Kobayashi's art house filmmaking and that the film is condemning the Japanese for the way they treated the ex-hostages, I think it also portrays Yuko as a not entirely sympathetic person. While clearly being the victim, the film also shows her as being a selfish person, something that Yuko herself acknowledges in the film. It does not make her a bad person, it just makes her human, and to me, Bashing is more about the right to be human than anything else. It's about having the right to do what you want, even if what you want sometimes is selfish. Of course, that doesn't justify anything that Yuko and her family has to endure but the film gives you more to think about than if it had just been pointing fingers and looking to blame someone the same way that some people did to the freed hostages.