In the spring when Japanese cherry blossoms are in bloom, the collective gathers together in celebration, admiring their transient nature and optimistic for good things to come. Yet scenes like this are essentially subjective, knowing that a life-changing and traumatic event can forever stain associations of what once used to be beautiful. Director, producer and journalist Shiori Ito investigates the journey of her own sexual assault in her documentary, Black Box Diaries. Defined as a system whose internal workings are hidden or not yet understood, Ito uncovers Japan’s outdated laws regarding rape and sexual violence and the myriad ways that individuals are shut down by society and politcal forces at large when it comes to speaking the truth about their experiences.
Going public in 2017 regarding her rape allegation by Noriyuki Yamaguchi, a former Washington Bureau Chief for the Tokyo Broadcasting System (and in close relations to then Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe), Shiori Ito was bombarded with judgements asserting that her burgeoning journalist career and future would be ruined as well as the inevitable shame she’ll put upon herself and her family for speaking up about such matters.
With an estimated 4% of victims in Japan reporting their crimes to the police, it’s no wonder the country and culture at large is so used to suppressing these voices or offering resources to aid them through these horrific cases. With many traditional masculine and feminine expectations still embedded within Japanese society, the belief that women should be docile and submissive further hinder their ability to come forward for fear of repercussions. Not only waiting months to be taken seriously by the police and investigators, Ito also had to flee her home to stay holed up in an undisclosed location and unable to venture out in public alone for fear of her safety.
Utilizing passages from her diary, voice recordings, iPhone and video footage, Black Box Diaries unravels Ito’s case in a linear fashion, bringing her audience along with her at every hurdle, frustration and triumph along the way. Ito released her first written memoir depicting her experience and investigation on her rape case in the fall of October 2017, right when the #MeToo movement was gaining traction on social media channels. The scenes of Ito being invited to speak with women journalists and connecting with them in such an uplifting way are extraordinarily moving. While change clearly never comes in an instant, Black Box Diaries’ intent to transparently speak and share one woman’s truth is absolutely necessary, both to provide an understanding of how all too common these experiences are as well as to shine light on the dire need for systemic change, even simply just to be heard, when survivors need it the most.
You can purchase an online ticket to watch BLACK BOX DIARIES via Sundance Film Festival 2024 here.