When: Tue., Oct. 5, 8 p.m. 2010
The United States isn't the only country that sent men overseas to fruitlessly battle Communists in Asia after the Second World War. In 1945, after the bombs had fallen on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan had surrendered, thousands of Japanese troops on the Chinese mainland were ordered to stay and fight with the Nationalists against Mao's armies. Many of those who didn't die were taken prisoner, including a young soldier named Waichi Okumura, who didn't make it back home until 1954.
Okumura's return was soured by his treatment at the hands of the Japanese government and military, who declared him and his unit (dubbed "ant soldiers") deserters who had remained in China of their own volition. Now, at age 80, Okumura tries to pry an acknowledgment of the truth from a government still officially in denial. Director Kaoru Ikeya also follows him on a repentant visit to China, where he confronts his own inhumanity in the brutal campaign there.
Knowing the fervor with which nationalistic Japanese esteem the Yakusuni Shrine in Tokyo, dedicated to fallen soldiers, it must have taken a great deal of courage for Okumura to publicly confront fellow veteran Hiroo Onoda, a soldier who kept fighting in the Philippines after the war ended and refused to surrender until 1972, after a rousing patriotic speech he gave there. See the face-off for yourself at the free screening, which starts at 8 p.m. —Marc Maximov