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In Search of the Unreturned Soldiers

Directed by Shohei Imamura

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In these two films, Shohei Imamura travels first to Malaysia and then to Thailand, to investigate the lives and experiences of those Japanese soldiers who, during World War II, chose to desert from the Japanese Army and remain in Southeast Asia.

film stillDISC ONE (45 minutes)

In Malaysia, Imamura follows one false lead after another as he tries to locate unreturned Japanese who had given up the culture of their birth to integrate with Malaysian society. These wrong turns take the filmmaker on a tour through the complexities of post-war Malaysia, and allow him the time to air his outrage with the Japanese military's conduct in Southeast Asia, focusing particularly on the 1942 Sook Ching massacre.

The director eventually tracks down A-Kim, a former soldier who has converted to Islam and lives in a Malaysian community. In conversation with Imamura, Kim describes the unlikely peace he has made with his country of birth.

"UNRETURNED SOLDIERS IN MALAYSIA plays out like a detective story."—Mike Hale, The New York Times

film stillDISC TWO (50 minutes)

Imamura has better luck in Thailand, where he brings together three unreturned soldiers to discuss their experiences during the war and after.

The three men - a farmer named Fujita and two doctors: Toshida and Nakayama - have responded very differently to their circumstances. All three openly describe the war crimes they committed as part of the Japanese army, but fight bitterly over their different feelings about the Emperor and the choices each has made in their post-war lives.

"The low-key titles belie the anti-authoritarian ethic at work: Imamura wants to find those who were enlisted by their country to fight, die, and murder on its behalf, and then abandoned."—David Auerbach, Waggish

"The most shocking of [Imamura's documentaries], IN SEARCH OF THE UNRETURNED SOLDIERS IN THAILAND, climaxes with the director getting three of the title subjects drunk so that they'll speak casually about atrocities they committed during World War II."—Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader

100 minutes / Color
English; Japanese / English subtitles
Release: 2012
Copyright: 1971

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Asia, East Asia, History (World), Human Rights, Japan, Southeast Asia, World War II

Related Links:
The Films of Shohei Imamura

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