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Bashing, May 4

49th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Thursday, May 4, 2006
7:00 p.m. Bashing
Masahiro Kobayashi (Japan, 2005)

From Japanese filmmaker Masahiro Kobayashi, Bashing reveals a consequence of war that many Americans may never have fathomed possible. With an initial disclaimer that the film is fiction "loosely based on real events," Kobayashi plunges into the desolate daily existence of Yuko, an aid worker whose recent kidnapping and release in the Middle East has gained her status as the town pariah once back at home. As the narrative begins, the situation has reached a tipping point and, in quick succession, Yuko is shunned by coworkers, fired from her job, harassed by strangers and dumped by her boyfriend. Facing similar persecution, her father and stepmother, too, are reaching their limits, and the tension is unbearable. The message to Yuko, finally stated in blunt terms by a taunting voice on her answering machine, is thus: "If you'd been killed, you would have been a heroine. Now you are nothing but an embarrassment to us all." The real-world circumstances that served as inspiration for the film involved several Japanese volunteer relief workers who were taken hostage in Iraq in 2004, then branded as selfish and denounced by the prime minister himself as being at fault for their situation. Kobayashi's depiction reflects on the larger perceptions of Japanese society and its attitude toward the individual spirit, but Bashing's strength is in its intimate sympathy for Yuko, bearing her torment and finally releasing her anguish as she contemplates the depths of her alienation in a place that never felt like home.

—Deanna Quinones

• Written by Kobayashi. Photographed by Koichi Saito. With Fusako Urabe, Ryuzo Tanaka, Takayuki Kato, Kikujiro Honda. (82 mins)