On 20 March, 1995, members of Aum Shinrikyo, a doomsday cult based within the late 1980s, launched lethal sarin fuel into the Tokyo subway system throughout rush hour. 13 individuals died, and near 6000 others skilled persistent issues because of publicity to the poisonous substance.
Atsushi Sakahara was a kind of affected, a survivor who has spent the final two-and-a-half many years publicising the physiological and psychological results of being caught within the assault. In his new movie, Me and the Cult Chief, which has its world premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest’s ongoing on-line version, he confronts his expertise head on, spending time with the cult’s longtime public relations supervisor and present chief, Hiroshi Araki.
Within the 25 years because the assault occurred, Japan has not forgotten. The incident has remained within the public consciousness ever since, whereas the execution of the cult’s founder Shoko Asahara – who was hanged alongside 11 different people concerned with Aum throughout 2018 – noticed a brand new surge of worldwide consideration. Within the intervening interval, the cult and the stunning, nonetheless not solely understood act of violence it dedicated has remained a topic of fascination for the Japanese media.
Early cinematic references had been indirect. In Juzo Itami’s Lady in Witness Safety, a girl witnesses the homicide of a lawyer who’s investigating a shadowy sect paying homage to Aum. In Shinji Aoyama’s An Obsession, a detective trails a girl who has murdered a cult chief, avenging her husband who was killed in a fuel assault. In more moderen movies, the connection to the cult is made specific. Bunyo Kimura’s The place Does Love Go? and Nobuhiko Hosaka’s Lurking – The Silence of the Cult each observe Aum members on the run from the regulation.
Probably the most well-known non-fiction movies on the incident, Tatsuya Mori’s A and A2,launched in 1998 and 2001 respectively, undertake the cult’s personal perspective. These interview-led movies discover – with an unparalleled stage of entry – the intimate workings of the disgraced, leaderless cult because it appeared to rebuild itself after the assaults. Mori’s controversial movies provide a kind of reverse model of what’s offered by Haruki Murakami’s ebook ‘Underground’, which collected interviews with a large spectrum of members and victims. Each initiatives problem the sensationalism current in Japanese media on the time by talking, respectively, straight with these accountable and people affected.
It’s this investigative journalistic legacy that Sakahara’s movie builds upon. Araki options closely in Mori’s movies, and although Sakahara was not interviewed for Murakami’s survey, he has revealed a number of of his personal books about his experiences and speaks publicly in regards to the incident usually. Having revealed an autobiography a decade in the past, Sakahara felt that he nonetheless had trauma he wish to work via by making a movie. He reached out to Fumihiro Joyu, a charismatic Aum spokesperson who fashioned a splinter group after the assaults, and to the quieter, extra mysterious Araki, who had caught with Aum. “I needed to face them, I needed to study them, and I needed to beat what I’ve been affected by,” Sakahara says throughout an interview.
Joyu was eager to be concerned, however Sakahara pursued Araki as an alternative. “You don’t need to make a movie about somebody who desires to be filmed, proper?” Sakahara argues that, “the more durable route goes to show probably the most worthwhile.” The movie he has produced, structured as it’s “like a pilgrimage”, is about pursuing the harder highway. In it, Sakahara and Araki journey collectively again to the city the place they had been each born, with the intention to uncover whether or not these two males, whose lives share the same start line however have taken divergent paths, have something in widespread.
It’s fairly a peculiar set-up for a movie, staged one thing just like the early work of Louis Theroux or Michael Moore; earnest in method and filled with darkish humour regardless of the troublesome material. “I personally imagine a way of humour is the final word freedom of thoughts,” Sakahara says. “With humour you’ll be able to most likely survive any robust state of affairs.”
Their interactions start in a simple vogue, discussing their shared origins and break up ideologies, however earlier than lengthy Sakahara begins to push Araki to acknowledge his ache: his nervous system injury but additionally the post-traumatic stress dysfunction that could be a day by day a part of his life. An uncomfortable scene sees Araki dealing with as much as Sakahara’s dad and mom, who’re unafraid to explain the place they see him as taking part in in what has occurred to their son.
By inserting himself in direct dialogue with somebody who, whereas not precisely a perpetrator, is actually not harmless both, Sakahara appears to establish to what extent persevering with to advertise Asahara’s beliefs makes Araki complicit in his violence. All that Sakahara asks for from Araki is an apology, not even for his personal actions, however for the injury brought on by those that carried out the assaults.
A scene in Me and the Cult Chief through which Araki is surrounded by the press, all of whom are asking the identical factor from him, recollects the same one in A1, filmed greater than 20 years earlier than and that includes a a lot youthful Araki. His response is eerily comparable; his expression a lot the identical. Plainly there isn’t any method of phrasing the query that can solicit an sufficient response.
As Sakahara sees it, “earlier than [Araki] joined the cult he had choices. He performed the sport of life like a foul participant, and started shedding these choices. Quickly he had checkmated himself, and he was trapped within the cult.” Sakahara says that he “all the time desires to imagine within the good in people,” and that he hopes that he’ll nonetheless be capable to persuade Araki to go away the cult. “Generally I really feel offended at [Araki], nevertheless it’s extra like a sense of disappointment. I’ve an expectation of him that he’s by no means capable of meet,” he says. “Evil shouldn’t be to start with, evil. I don’t quit on him. I’m offended at him with love.”
Me and the Cult Chief is obtainable to look at on Sheffield Doc/Fest Selects
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