Michael's Dispatches

Detailed Review of the Film “Scottsboro Girls”


 A film in Defense of Japanese Honor in the Face of Condemnation over alleged World War II Sex-slavery

10 June 2015


Bottom line up front: I strongly recommend that this film not be promoted to western audiences. It will be counterproductive. Anyone who is serious about presenting the truth on the Comfort Woman issue to an educated western audience should distance himself or herself from this film.

This critique is not about filmmaker Yujiro Taniyama as a man, but of his film. It is a disaster that needs to be edited with a chainsaw, or tossed out entirely. Filmmaker Yujiro Taniyama is not dishonest in his product. I am familiar with the World War II comfort women subject. The facts he presents are accurate. His presentation is a disaster.

I first watched the film months ago in Tokyo, and had another copy sent to me in Thailand for this review. On a factual basis, Yujiro “Yuji” Taniyama does not commit any errors to my knowledge. However, at least 90% of the material needs to be remade or hacked out of the film.

So why have various otherwise intelligent, perceptive people actually endorsed this film as a tool to educate English speaking audiences?

One of those who endorsed this film is Ms. Yoshiko Sakurai. Ms. Yoshiko Sakurai is a prominent figure in Japan. Everyone knows her name. She is Walter Cronkite and Katie Couric rolled into one. Ms. Sakurai has Oprah-power. She has direct political influence, and her own television station. When Ms. Sakurai endorses something that is big.

Inexplicably she has endorsed this monster.


Many Japanese have asked me for details of exactly what in this film is detrimental to conveying the message.

Some of my notes from reviewing the 185 minute film:

1) Title: Scottsboro Girls

Yuji -- told me at Ms. Sakurai’s home that this title refers to the Scottsboro Boys in the United States. Yuji seemed sure that most Americans would understand the allusion.

The reality is that most Americans, including educated Americans, will have no idea who the Scottsboro Boys were.

Even for Americans who are aware of the case, the comparison does not work. There is no parallel between the Scottsboro Boys and comfort women. For starters, a person must know a substantial amount about both cases to understand the attempt. Most people do not know much about either case, and whatever the case, they are not parallel.

2) The film is 3 hours, 5 minutes long. There is no Bruce Willis or pretty girls.   This is too long for Americans. As Blaise Pascal might say, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”

Taniyama sinks into quicksand that swallows many young writers and photographers, especially those prone to narcissism. It is folly to embrace the idea that the audience wants and deserves to see everything the artist has produced.

Reality: people are busy. Get to the point. This 185 minute film is about 130 minutes too long.

3) The film begins with unrelated graphics and weird music not suited to academic presentation. Music haunts the film. The music is energizing, and on its own is special at times, but is not appropriate in this work. On this subject, the audience needs quiet to think, not techno-dancing.

4) Around 3 minutes Yuji talks about being bullied at school in Adelaide, Australia. This film is supposed to be about comfort women and sex slaves (two different things).

Using the term “fucking nigger” at the 3’30” mark – this phrase will not play well in the USA no matter what the context. The word nigger is used numerous times in the film. The USA has a terrifically bad history with this word and we cannot bury it deeply enough. This word is a grenade that is too big to throw far enough away without the thrower getting blasted.

Not even 4 minutes deep in the film, likely 90% of educated Americans will reject the message due to uncouth, self-centered presentation.

5) Rambles on to 4’40” and curses again, using the word “shit.”

6) Diverges over to North Korea and some strange theatrics, saying “racism sucks.” It does suck, but using this language in front of educated audiences does not work.

Yuji talks about his hairstyle. What does hairstyle have to do with sex slaves or comfort women? At about the 5’30” mark, mentions that we are all “damn humans.”

7) Yuji talking about himself too much. After 6’ starts talking about Michael Jackson concerts.   (Almost three hours into the film, Yuji launches into a full scale emotional defense of Michael Jackson, insinuating the media killed Jackson because he was black.)

8) At 7 minutes, still talking about himself, and then about soccer.

9) 8 minute mark-- still talking about soccer and showing very weird video with North Koreans crying insanely.

10) 9 minute mark, still going on about soccer.

11) 10 minute mark, still in the soccer stadium. Uses high school talk like “OMG man”, and says “goddammit.” Still not talking about the comfort women. The word goddammit will alienate most Christians, and the word nigger will alienate most Americans.

12) Begins opening credits at about 10’15” with inappropriate music.

13) 12 minutes in, Yuji talks about Woody Allen. Still not talking about comfort women. Introduces himself as filmmaker and outspoken samurai of the 21st century.

At about 12’40, finally mentions comfort women.

14) Up to 14 minutes, overdramatic and still talking about Woody Allen, trying to compare difficult to prove rape allegations. (Not a far stretch, but over the top for this film.) 14’30” talking about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.   This film is supposed to be about WWII comfort women.

15) 15’20” Yuji mentions that he is not a suicide bomber and does not work for al Qaeda. (Good to clear that up, just in case.)

16) 16 minutes starts talking about “NYT, WMD” and the Iraq war.

17) 17 minutes mentions comfort women again.

18) 19 minute mark Yuji is flying to Korea to finally start talking about comfort women.

19) 20 minutes Yuji is starting to present interesting, accurate information about a real comfort woman. This is the meat of the matter and the info is good, but he is doing this at a loud bus station on a Korean street.

20) 22 minutes this is all good information. I like it. It is accurate. But still doing this on the loud street.

21) 24 minutes -- we are back into Yuji’s personal adventure instead of the comfort women narrative. He was doing well there for a few minutes and then goes back to me, me, me. Narcissistic presentation.

22) 26 + minutes is asking Korean taxi driver what he thinks of PM Shinzo Abe.

23) 28 minutes -- getting out of taxi, still rambling about unrelated nonsense, uses the word “shit.”

24) 31 minutes having slight confrontation by the comfort woman museum in Korea.

25) 33 minutes – Yuji has gone gonzo. More like Michael Moore at this point. When he stays on facts he does okay, but now it is gonzo.

26) 35’30” starts cursing again with “damn criminal” and “goddammit.”

27) 36 minutes – Yuji is going total Michael Moore. Gonzo.

28) 36’55” Some men scared him during a confrontation, Yuji mentions, “These North Korean monsters did scare some shit out of me guys.” Over the top in this context.

29) 39 minutes Yuji begins to interview Professor Tsutomu Nishioka, from Tokyo Christian University. Professor Nishioka is highly respected. Professor Nishioka says he is Christian.   He is pleasant to speak with. He is also a supporter of this film, though I strongly suspect Professor Nishioka had no idea that this would be the product. (Professor Nishioka is also on the film credits and is in Ms. Sakurai’s think tank where I spoke privately.) Personal note: I think Professor Nishioka is one of the good guys so this is a bit delicate.

30) 40 minutes we are getting important information about comfort women. Good information from Professor Nishioka.

31) The narrative winds on, occasionally with useful information that continues to be mired in the presentation. At around 53 minutes Yuji makes ad hominem attacks on Representative Mike Honda. Honda has deceived people about this issue for years, and those of us who have studied the issue know this, but the ad hominem will fail with American academics.

32) 53’50” curses. This may seem trivial but with American academics this is arsenic.

32) 54 minutes starts talking about Scottsboro boys, which has nothing to do with comfort women or sex slaves.

33) 55 minutes curses

34) Sprinkles in useful information.

35) 57’40” curses

36) Winds on with good information but the presentation always drags it down.

37) 1 hour mark presents good information about a specific comfort woman, and the presentation is good.

38) About five minutes of solid, interesting information that is presented well but presentation starts to slip again at 1h5’

39) Yuji does fine for about 11 minutes but then starts to stumble more with presentation.

40) 1h14’ Yuji starts using a freaky, affected voice to describe comfort women. Then comes some good information, which is lost in presentation.

41) 1h15’ starts with the loud, inappropriate music again. (The music is nice, but inappropriate for this sort of film.)

42) 1h21’30” -- Makes the horrific mistake of cutting fun at an old Korean lady, using a creepy strange, affected voice. Americans will not countenance a young, strong man making fun of an old lady.

If he were to confront an old lady face-to-face in America like this, it could even be physically dangerous for him if the wrong man is nearby. This is a massive cultural mistake. Doing this in front of some Hispanics could be a death sentence. Never make fun of grandma.

He mocks her account of kidnapping and torture by electric shock.

To be sure, we know the lady is lying. This was exposed years ago. Yuji is not lying. She is.

I stress that Yuji has been truthful throughout the film on the many parts I have studied. To my knowledge, he has not told a single lie in the film, and he has not avoided times when Japanese actually committed crimes. On the truth meter, Yuji scores high – very high.

She might be telling the truth about torture by her Korean brothel owners/operators, but it has been sufficiently proven that she was not kidnapped by Japanese. She tripped up in her own accounts over the years.

It is understandable that Yuji is angry – her perjuries have been sincerely damaging for Japan. Journalists by the boatload believe her, even when the evidence of her deceptions is obvious and available.

However…she is an old lady. Mocking her plays into enemy hands. Yuji should calmly expose the deception and walk away. (Her handlers are Korean communists.)

43) 1h22’40” – Has a scene that depicts shooting the old lady in the head with a pistol.

And on this note, we should pause to reflect what this about.

This film ostensibly is about allegations that Japanese kidnapped and forcibly raped 200,000 women, then murdered many or most of them.

So to mock her torture and pretend to shoot her in the head is doing cheetah backflips to fail, and to smear Japan. This appears to be clowning by Yuji. Clowning is a term used in propaganda wars to describe when a person infiltrates one side, pretends to be on that side, and then undermines that side while retaining plausible credibility.

Yuji tells the truth every step of the way – thus getting Japanese support – yet does so in a way that makes Japanese look like werewolves on a full moon.

From here the film only gets weirder. I watched every painful minute. There is no need to carry on with this review because it gets worse and worse, and probably 90% of smart Americans were lost in the first 4-5 minutes. By 90 minutes, Americans probably think Yuji needs to be deported before he commits a crime.

Again, I sincerely recommend that Ms. Yoshiko Sakurai withdraw her endorsement and the producer remove the film from the market.

It is important that Ms. Yoshiko Sakurai publicly withdraw her endorsement.  If not, it means she stands with this film.

Earlier I published that Ms. Sakurai told me that she endorsed the film without watching it. She disagreed, saying she did watch it.

Okay, so let’s chalk that up to a miscommunication, and say she is right and she watched it. In any case we must avoid damaging her credibility by all means for the sake of Japan and the Japanese people.

Should she continue to endorse it Americans will know that this most respected member of the Japanese conservative movement stands by a film celebrating shooting an old woman in the head. That is not something that will benefit Japan’s image, or help promote the truth overseas.

If anything, Americans will more likely believe the false characterizations that the Japanese conservatives, and Ms. Sakurai by her endorsements, endorse violent fanaticism against elderly women simply because they are Korean.

For people who believe Yujiro is clowning for leftwing extremists, this is a perfect trap to present Japanese conservatives, Ms. Sakurai, and the Comfort Women facts in the worst possible light.

Yujiro has provided ammunition to the Chinese-led leftist lobby in the US, all with Ms. Sakurai’s sterling endorsement.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Voltes5rules · 6 years ago
    I totally agree with this review. Yuji curses 8 times in the film. These cursing scenes make the film look vulgar. So, they must be eliminated. The other vulgar or offensive scenes, especially the scene in which he makes fun of the old Korean lady, must also be removed. When he speaks in Japanese, he is very polite and never curses like these scenes. He does not seem to be aware that his personality drastically changes when he speaks in English.
    A true Samurai would never make fun of an old lady. A true Samurai is an embodiment of sincerity and intellectual sophistication.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John M · 6 years ago
    Three decades working in mainstream media provides every opportunity to witness truth - lies - and everything in between. Making documentaries is no simple task, to be sure, as the context has to paint the picture through story. This means your subject matter must match your intention, so as to, present both sides of a story - and then, let the audience decide what it means to them. Only the audience has the final word. Scottsboro Girls sounds interesting enough, but with a title like this the first order of business is to tell the story of comfort women - history, past, present and future possibilities. From reading Michael Yon's review it appears the film maker may have missed the mark entirely. Or, perhaps the film maker was attempting to be from this new jonre of shock filmmakers who grew up wishing they were Stanley Kubrick. The review reads like A Clockwork Orange type of effort. However, given the details that Michael Yon has put together - I think he does a more than an adequate job of convincing most normal human beings to avoid the film all together. The danger here, of course, is that human beings are strange folk and at times will gravitate toward such film lunacy out of curiosity. As Andy Warhol just to say "there is no such thing as bad publicity...". People will do the strangest things. As for Michael Yon, he states the truth (as he knows it to be) and when you tell the truth the lies have to go away. From the sounds of the review 'the Girls' who should have been featured instead will be 'Scarred' for life from the injustice of NOT having their story shared with the world. Too bad - great subject matter of a piece of history from a beloved culture. Theirs would have been a dynamic and touching story - had it been told.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Y. · 6 years ago
    As a fellow American, I am in agreement with Michael Yon's comments regarding Yujiro Taniyama's (YT's) "Scottsboro Girls." Mr. Yon's detailed comments point out specific shortcomings.

    The video is in English and makes reference to "Scottsboro Boys," an arcane topic for most Americans, even though it occurred in the United States. So one would assume that the target audience is the American public. However, as Mr. Yon astutely points out, there are many serious problems with the video, making the video counterproductive. Some examples of the many problems are:

    (1) YT uses 'foul' language (profanity) and sounds unprofessional. Thus, it is likely that many Americans will stop viewing it after just several minutes.

    (2) YT insults Americans in the video. For instance, he calls Congressman Mike Honda "chubby" and calls him Mike "Hyundai." Such language is disrespectful and uncalled for. YT also insults other Americans and suggests that Americans are racists when he discusses Trayvon Martin.

    ( ) YT uses words, phrases, and examples that are inappropriate. For instance, YT uses the word "juicy" to describe Korean women. Also, YT's idolization of Michael Jackson is an unhelpful distraction.

    (4) YT sounds very anti-feminist. Anti-feminist remarks do not help YT's case, and can turn people against him and Japanese.

    (5) The video is too long. YT repeats himself unnecessarily and spends too much time talking about Korean prostitution after WWII, (b) insulting American politicians, (c) discussing Chongsindae (in an unclear manner). These topics are not essential and should be summarized quickly, or not at all. People are busy.

    (6) Small snippets of the video are fairly good: for example, the inconsistencies in individual Korean comfort women's stories related to their alleged abductions, how Seiji Yoshida fabricated his story about forcibly rounding up Korean women, the inaccuracies in Coomaraswamy's UN reports, and the anti-Japan hate group called Chongdaehyop that has been fomenting hate against Japan by spreading false information.

    Conclusion: This video is an example of a Japanese person (YT) deluding himself and believing that he understands Americans better than Americans such as Michael Yon and others. Instead of influencing people in the way that YT desires, the video will likely turn many Americans (and other Westerners) against Japan. Although important facts are scattered within the video, the presentation is too long, circuitous, and the language is offensive, disrespectful, and insulting to many Americans. One does not "win friends and influence people" by insulting them. A wise person would get feedback from a sample of the target audience he hopes to influence and accept constructive criticism.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Well. · 6 years ago
    There used to be a Japanese translation of this review, but it was taken down from the Internet. I believe the reason for this is that Mr. Taniyama wrote a Japanese-language "response" that is actually a long list of insults and harassment aimed at Michael Yon and is actually somewhat scary to read. It reads more like a ransom note than a criticism. I can understand that Michael's translator may have felt threatened and deleted the Japanese version. Taniyama seems like a rather unstable person and he really shouldn't get endorsements from people in positions of authority.

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