Monday, August 05, 2013

Library Wars

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

I have already introduced this movie in a previous blog entry, but here you can read my comments and some more information about Library Wars.

In 2019, the Japanese government pass the Media Betterment Act, a very strong censorship law, and creates a special army to enforce it by searching and eliminating any documents deemed unsuitable by the law. However, libraries in Japan have their own law that gives them freedom in collecting and offering their materials, guaranteeing privacy to their users and categorically opposing any type of censorship. Therefore, another armed force is created to protect libraries against such censorship. The story follows Iku Kasahara, a young recruit of the Library Defense Force, as she discovers all the challenges of a paramilitary life.

When she was in high school, Iku Kasahara went to a book store to pick up the latest instalment of a fantasy novel series that she liked a lot. As she was waiting to pay, a squad of MBA soldiers entered the store. She's told that the novel she wants is banned and, as a soldier tries to wrestle it out of her hands, a Library Defense Force officer intervenes to help her and save the book. Years later, she wants to join the Library Defense Force in order to find her “prince”--even if she doesn't remember how he looks like or what's his name. Unfortunately, since she's not taking her job seriously enough, she makes mistakes that could put her colleagues in harm's way and some of them are resenting her for it. However, she works hard, learns from her mistakes and will eventually earn her colleagues' trust.

In the 80s, the Media Betterment Act was created not only for the security of the country, to give more powers to the government, but also to “protect” the citizens, who could be “harmed” or badly influenced by books that are too violent or information that is too distressing to know. In 1999, when libraries started resisting this censorship, a group of MBA activists (whose identities always remained unknown) attacked and burned a library as an example. The sole survivor of the Hino Massacre, as it became known, decided to create the Library Defense Force to make sure such horrible violence would never happen again. So far, heavy combat was avoided but when the owner of a private information museum dies and his collection (rumoured to contains proof of illegal dealings behind the creation of the MBA) is to be donated to the LDF headquarter's library, the MBA's army launch an all out attack in hope to prevent the documents' transfer. When this fails, the activists responsible for the Hino Massacre resurface and kidnap the LDF leader and his body guard: Iku Kasahara. It will be the opportunity for her to prove what she can do.

It is impossible to listen to this movie without thinking about people like Bradley Manning (who leaked thousands of classified U.S. documents), Julian Assange (WikiLeaks founder) or Edward Snowden (a CIA contractor who recently leaked information about secret U.S. electronic surveillance activities). In fact, I watched the movie on the same day Manning was found guilty of espionage and theft. Those brave individuals, not unlike the Library Defense Force, believe that governments should be held accountable if they brake their own law, that we should fight censorship and require absolute transparency from our governments.

Ever since september 11th 2001, several countries of the world have voted laws to protect themselves against terrorists, but it also seriously curtails the civil liberties of their citizens. In order to overcome the enemy you have to become like him, in a downward spiral into a police state and dictatorship. First, governments would want access to all information even if it infringes on personal privacy (it's the Orwellian 1984 stage, similar to what Snowden warned us about). Then, they would want to control and restrict access to sensitive information they consider harmful (thus making people like Manning or Assange into criminals). Finally, the next step would be to eliminate the information they consider harmful (the Fahrenheit 451 stage; some countries might already be there and if the conservative gain even more power it might happen in America also; book censorship incidents are not rare and book burning is just one step further). Like they said in the movie, citing the German poet Heinrich Heine, a country that burns books is a country that will also burn men. So, when honest whistle blowers are considered as traitors, it is time to start worrying.

This movie stands as a warning of what could happens if things would really go wrong. It tells us that, in a way, it has already begun and that's our fault for letting it happening. In the movie someone says that only the apathy of the people allowed this situation to happen. It is really not surprising. People don't like to be bothered with situation like this (in fact, if something like this would happen in any of the libraries I worked for, people would not resist the authorities and give them whatever they wanted without a thought). Of course, the director wraps his message with a little humour, lots of action (using pretty decent special effects) and a good dose of romance (the director insisted a lot on the fact that his movie was a romantic comedy with action). It is quite an interesting and entertaining movie.

For more information on this movie you can read other comments (AsianWiki, The Hollywood Reporter, Screen Daily and Twitch) and view the trailer on Dailymotion:

Library Wars Official Trailer (2013) - Sato... by Filmclips

Fantasia's staff have also posted on Vimeo this interesting interview with Shinsuke Sato:

Library Wars (図書館戦争 / Toshokan Sensō): Japan, 2013, 128 min.; Dir.: Shinsuke Sato; Scr.: Akiko Nogi (based on a novel by Hiro Arikawa); Phot.: Taro Kawazu; Ed.: Tsuyoshi Imai; Mus.: Yû Takami; Cost. Des.: Masae Miyamoto; Visual Fx: Makoto Kamiya; Prod.: Kazuya Hamana; Distr.: Toho; Cast: Junichi Okada (Atsushi Dojo), Nana Eikura (Iku Kasahara), Kei Tanaka (Mikihisa Komaki), Sota Fukushi (Satoshi Tezuka), Chiaki Kuriyama (Asako Shibasaki), Kazuma Suzuki (Kenji Takeyama), Koji Ishizaka (Iwao Nishina), Jun Hashimoto (Ryusuke Kenta), Naomi Nishida (Maki Orikuchi), Kazuyuki Aijima, Kyusaku Shimada, Kiyoshi Kodama, Kazuma Suzuki. Official selection at the 2013 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival. Screened at fantasia July 30th at 19:45 (Imperial Theatre).
For more information you can visit the following websites:
Update: It will be available on DVD in Japan on November 13th, 2013:
Library Wars © 2013 “Library Wars” Movie Project

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