FUKUYAMA, Hiroshima Prefecture--In a bid to attract young audience members, who are declining in number, the Cinema Mode theater joined with university students to offer a special screening of a movie focusing on sexual minorities.
The mini theater in the city's Kasaokamachi district screened critically acclaimed director Ryosuke Hashiguchi's "Hush!" on July 7.
"We are concerned because even though we have more large-scale theaters in and around Fukuyama, it doesn't mean the number of audience members increases greatly," said Cinema Mode manager Kazuki Iwamoto, who approached the students to organize the screening project. "There are many good films that deal with social issues. After the screening, I hope young people will see a wide variety of films and become interested."
Released in 2001, "Hush!" follows a gay man who is in a relationship with another man. One day, he is approached by a woman who says she wants to have a baby with him. The human drama details their unconventional relationship and attracted considerable attention at the time of release.
An audience discussion with Hashiguchi, who has come out as gay himself, was held after the screening. Moderated by the students, the director talked about unconventional forms of family and love, and took questions from the audience.
The project was organized by Kokoro Okuda, 22, and other senior students of Fukuyama University's Department of Media Information Culture, who are attending a media theory seminar being taught by assistant professor Jun Abe. It was the students who decided to tackle the controversial subject matter, to help educate people about sexual minorities in Japan.
Okuda was attending a part-time high school in Mihara city in the prefecture, and noticed that many of her classmates had a different view of society than the mainstream.
There was a female student who told Okuda that she chose the alternative high school because she would have been forced to wear a skirt at a regular public high school.
But after Okuda went on to study at the university, she was surprised to see so many people who described sexual minorities as "creepy." Others said they found it "unacceptable" if their children were homosexual.
Okuda wondered why the prejudice against sexual minorities remains deep-rooted. She chose the relationship between sexual minorities and media for her graduation thesis and has continued her research.
"Like so-called 'onee' (pronounced 'o-ne-e') personalities, their exposure on television has increased, but conversely, I feel that their roles as targets to make fun of has become ingrained," Okuda said, referring to transgender TV personalities in Japan. "I hope we provided an opportunity to learn (about sexual minorities) with a 'movie' that was accessible for everyone."
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