Saturday, March 14, 2015

Censorship? Self-censorship? 検閲? 自己検閲?


The Japanese distributor of 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE), my documentary about children living in Fukushima, is cancelling all domestic screenings of the film.  They are also canceling the contract to distribute the film in Japan, despite there being more than two years remaining on the agreement.

It is not clear to me how much of this decision is the result of actual censorship and how much is self-censorship.  My feeling is that it is self-censorship based on the fear of a potential censorship problem at some point in the future.  If this is the case, then it is an example of the terrifying and wide-reaching effect of the Secrecy Law (INFO).  This law does not even need to be enforced for its effect to be felt: its mere existence causes people to engage in self-censorship, imposing on themselves the very crackdown that the drafters of the legislation had surely envisioned.


It is no longer possible to have honest, open discussions and debates about what is happening in Fukushima, and the cancellation of all domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' is merely the symptom of a disease that has infected Free Speech in Japan.

The distributor is allowing the screenings in five locations across Japan that were scheduled to take place this weekend (Saga, Izu, Osaka, Nagano and Mie) to go ahead.  All screenings that were scheduled for March 16 or later have been cancelled, and while my plane was still in the air yesterday, the distributor had already contacted the organizers of all the affected screenings. 


I had already been planning to attend the two screenings in Nagano today, and the distributor has instructed me to publicly make the announcement about the cancellations here for the first time.  Inviting a few journalists to be in the audience, I am turning the Q&A into an impromptu press conference.  My hands are shaking as I post this entry and am about to walk out on stage for the first of the two post-screening discussions that will be held here in Nagano today and which will mark the last time I will see my film screened in Japan.

I have no idea what I am going to say, but I can assure you that any attempt to make me quiet will only succeed in making me louder.


gregory said...

good luck !!

like many governments in the world, japan needs to grow up!

your actions help change the vibe ..

Unknown said...

Ian, I wish I could say "I'm shocked." Who is your distributor? I'll have a nice long talk with them.

David R Munson said...

So now the question is how to distribute and screen it without them. If they censor themselves, that's shitty, but no reason to keep you from carrying on without them. Keep pushing!

Katie said...

Use it. This will only bring more attention to your work. Get the word out. There's nothing like telling someone they can't see something to make them want to see it all the more. You are an inspiring human being. Keep fighting for what's right.

C. Iwane said...

Keep shining, Ian! You are making international history, standing on the side of truth, justice & compassion. No one can censor that.

Nick Thabit said...

Take the time to speak with Pradeep Indulkar, the maker of High Power, the story of the nuclear industry destroying lives and villages in India. He's been screening his film around the world without a distributor. He might have some ideas for bypassing the (self?) censorship that's going on in Japan. I hope you can get the film more widely shown, even if not in theaters.

Eija said...

Met you at Cultural Typhoon. Keep up your important work documenting Fukushima!

Saiko said...

Anyway, thank you so much for very caring of Fukusima and the people, especially the children. We Japanese, really appresiate . At the same time, so sorry for stopping your film. I really hope we can see the film again in Japan .Is it possible to show it outside Japan? If so, Hope people around the world see the film and know what is happening in Japan. Heartful thanks to you, Ian.

Koichi said...

Hi Ian. I appreciate your attempt and feel very sorry for the cancellation by the distributor.
I am Japanese and I live near Osaka.
Shame on me, I've been indifferent to the disaster for somehow. But recently I started to think strongly it's not good to be indifferent.
As I'm native Japanese speaker as well as English speaker, I'm now seeking what I can do regarding to this catastrophe.
There're many books(of course in Japanese) that present the truth and reality of what happened to the nuclear plant.
I hope your document are available throughout the world!

paul arenson (NYer, met you in Wajiro Fukuoka) said...

Fuck the distributor, and let's get the word out. Both for the people of Tohoku and to put a wrench in the works of the censors. We also need to have the distributor put on notice that ultimately they will also suffer.

gundiji said...

I´m from Germany and I wish you can show the film in other Countries. The people have to know what happen in Japan. I´m with you in spirit...

Masa said...

I was very schocked to have this information.
Is there any way to show your film not through the distributor after 16th March in JPN?

Yurika Ayukawa said...

Is it possible to show the film if Ian himself shows it, not through the distributor? If yes, I know a place where you can use.
Keep your spirit up.

Bosstweeds said...

Can you put it up on You Tube or somethings? They can't censor that.

Anonymous said...

An important message about free speech and "censorship":

You're free to distribute and show your work in Japan. Either via YouTube or via another domestic provider (nico nico douga for example).

You will not be arrested. Last year, ZERO journalists in Japan were arrested. Same for the year before that. And the year before that...

However, freedom of speech in Japan (and the U.S. and other countries) does not mean a private non-government distributor is obligated to show/distribute your work.

That's not censorship. That's capitalism, unfortunately.

So yeah, go ahead and put your movie on YouTube. Enable the ads so you make money off of it. And distribute the link. I'll watch it.

Anonymous said...

It's just like China censoring and banning its journalist Chai Jing's new documentary "Under the Dome: Investigating the China's smog" which uncovers the severe growing pollution in Beijing and its causes including the inability of the government to actually implement its laws and regulations. Chai has no choice but to put it on YouTube:
Do THE SAME for yours. Make use of all possible social media platforms rather than traditional way of viewing. It's the only way to share info/findings which the government doesn't want us to share these days.

Mamo said...


Thank you so much for your information.
So what happened to the children, living in Fukushima? I hope I can know it.

Hironou said...

I am very impressed and encouraged by A2-B-C, to watch it last month.
Via web exhibition is good idea,
but I just to know , if Ian-san can cut off the contract between the distributer,we can make it possible to show your film at theater from you directly.
I think you are facing to difficult situation, please let us know if it possible?

I think to show your film infront of many real audiance and discuss with them , is the true style of ours.

Andrew said...

Hi Ian, Hoping we can get you to write something about this for the next Project Censored yearbook. I have sent you e-mail at your gmail account in hopes of establishing contact with you about this possibility. Andy Lee Roth, associate director, Project Censored

菊地ルイ said...


Ian Thomas Ash said...

DVD or Internet Release of 'A2-B-C' not possible

Several people have messaged me asking if I can upload the film to the internet in order to bypass the distribution system, but there is a very important reason why that is not possible: I made an agreement with the families who appeared in the film that I would not upload it to the internet and that a DVD of the film would not be released in Japan. This was to protect them as much as possible from becoming the targets of harsh criticism for having spoken out in a country where, as the expression goes, "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down."

One of the main reasons I decided to sign with a distributor was to strengthen my ability to keep these promises I had made with the families. As an individual it would have been difficult for me to prevent someone from uploading the film to the internet or selling pirated DVDs, but this became easier to control with the resources of a distributor.
Although some people may not see the difference between screening a film publicly and having it available online, releasing the film online would expose the families to even more harsh criticism than they are already experiencing and could lead to a very real concern for their safety. Despite the fact that 'A2-B-C' has only ever been available to watch in cinemas and the privately organized screenings, the mothers in the film have been the recipients of cruel bashing and internet bullying by often anonymous attackers.

One example of the outrageous attacks being made on the mothers who had spoken out about their concerns for the health and safety of their children was an article that attempted to discredit them and accused me of making the film for the express purpose of inciting discrimination against the people of Fukushima which I first wrote about here:

Thank you all for your continued support.

Peace, Ian

Yokoyokowa said...

I imagine the main reason of the cancellation can be the concern about harassment for vulnerable mothers and kids who are in the film as you mentioned. I've been active on unti-nuke movement with some of the Fukushima people who are in your film and was also working against the secret bill. I saw your film in Vancouver and couldn't find anything that can touch sensitive issues.
Some of people in your film have very strong minds and engaged in activism so that they can help you for next filming even though they receive lots of harassments by others.
Showing this film outside of Japan is also highly valued.

井上エイド said...

Let me get this straight: you make a documentary to "try to get the message out", but you don't want to "get the message out" too much by making it widely available for all to see?

Uh, okay. Uh-huh.

And you want to protect the people in the movie? Did it ever occur to you to use standard journalism techniques like blurring faces, altering their voices, or not showing their faces?

You are incredibly naive to think that by simply limiting the distribution to analog theaters that you are protecting these people being discovered or criticized. Sheesh.

Sounds like you're making (weak) excuses for the fact that the doc just isn't that good (and your Japanese distributor knows this, and that's the real reason they're not distributing it); you are trumpeting the "censorship" thing and the "distribute via theaters" so you can get more money/exposure for yourself (because distributing over the Internet will not only probably make you less money, but it will also expose you to critical feedback that you don't want to hear. And it will make it obvious how few people view it).

This documentary reminds me of that TokyoMango "We're All Radioactive" fiasco joke doc made a few years ago.

Hironou said...

I understand it is very important to argue the discussion of the guts about documentary filming and distribution,
but apart from this,
I think It is simple to break through this situation not be able to put on the screen your A2-B-C in Japan.Under such social problem that the government intend the fukushima nuclear disaster to be faded out.
Among the mutual consent between the families( I very understand they do not to want publicize on web) ,
If the families still agree with the showhing on the analogue screening after 16 March, I would like to show this program at my event this summer.
If via distributer is not allowed,direct from you.
Hoping your every success!

group in Shizuoka,Japann said...

From a group in Shizuoka,

Ian, we’ll send you words of encouragement .
We were moved profoundly by your film A2b-C that brought the reality of Fukushima to light.
And especially your affection for the children in Fukushima moved us so much.

We were planning to screen A2B-C in May with the support of a board of education.
Even though the film was cancelled by the distributor, we can’t accept the situation.

We don’t give up the idea of seeing your film again. We will continue to wait eternally until the film can be seen again.

You said,” Any attempt to make me quiet will only succeed in making me louder.” We believe you.

Fight together!
The truth will surely win!

Mimi said...

If there's any way can help, please let me know. I would very much like to see your doc!

Anonymous said...

Even in this zombie country, there are still some trust worthy film distributions. You may be able to get some support from Tofoo Films or Siglo. Google them and call!

kunihikoo bonkohara said...


         kunihiko bonkohara

Haru@Tokyo said...

It might be a dilemma between releasing the film and not broadcasting it.

I understand that for some people it seems contradictory.

But that's why this Fukushima problem 3.11 is a delicate matter in Japan.

Since, truth is not justice but balance in Japan. (We call that "wa")

Though, someone has to speak out the truth for better good, and I feel that Ian is one of the few foreigner director that understands, that Japanese small town community kind of shit.

I really appreciate that Ian jumped in to our hard-to-understand community and speak out for us.

And shame on us being numb and speak less.
Thank you Ian.

Anonymous said...



Ben Sharples said...

Honestly? The reaction to this, IN Japan is sad, and sickening....I don't agree with some of the political stances taken by Japan, but I DO know the people, and I've had faith in this countries "heart" because of that...If the people choose to self-censor and stop themselves from saying "This is wrong"? Then it really WILL be moving in that direction....I hate that...I love Japan...I live here...But the direction the country is moving, and the lack of help for those who lost EVERYTHING is enough to make me cry...Keep your pressure on, PLEASE...We need it, Japan needs it, and without people like you, none of us would KNOW it..Keep pushing..

arno said...

Ian, some Japanese people asked if we could get DVD for four-walling or some kind of distribution. What is your intention about fund raising? Is there anything we could help?

arno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
arno said... 自主上映会は再開しているようですね。 12月12日、川越。