Forgetting the Flags of Our Fathers

Clint Eastwood's new film, Flags of Our Fathers, goes on general release in the UK on Friday. It depicts the battle of Iwo Jima - a key struggle in the Second World War's Pacific theatre.

The Guardian's Justin McCurry was lucky enough to be on a journos tour of the place recently. Nobody except self-defence force officials and family members of the bereaved has been allowed to visit the isolated island, over a thousand miles south of Tokyo.

21,000 Japanese died there, and so Eastwood was shocked that most modern Japanese know nothing about the place. They are still recovering the remains of the dead.

What's interesting about this project, though, is that there's a parallel film being released for a Japanese audience. Letters from Iwo Jima is told from the perspective of the island's defenders.

Now, letters are a big thing in Japanese history. In Tokyo's Yushukan (the national war museum which neighbours the controversial Yasukuni shrine) Kamikaze pilots are brought to life through their last letters home, as they are in school text books.

Immediately after the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, the convicted were humanised in just this same way - their letters appearing in best-selling newspapers and books, talking of motherly bonds and the promise of an immortal soul.

So, it'll be with great interest that I watch these two films. Because it is virtually impossible that they can be compatible. To this day, foreign correspondents in Japan get most of their stories from the fallout over the Second World War. It's still raging in the hearts and minds of the Japanese, and they're not willing to surrender just yet.

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posted by Blamerbell @ 1:55 pm,


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