SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2024 REVIEW! An investigative journalist in Japan is forced to investigate her own sexual assault in Shiori Ito’s documentary film, Black Box Diaries.
Several years ago, journalist Shiori Ito met with Noriyuki Yamaguchi, the Washington bureau chief for the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS). That night he drugged Ito and dragged her barely conscious body to his hotel room, and raped her. When she awoke, Ito was assured of a prominent future at TBS.
As much as Black Box Diaries is Ito’s story is a detailed account of her assault by Yamaguchi, it’s also an examination of the almost impossible task it is to prosecute sexual assault in Japan (and the rest of the world) due to laws that lean in favor of assailants.
When the assault occurred, Ito was not conscious and, therefore, couldn’t provide a detailed account of the encounter. As a result, the police closed the investigation and would not accept Ito’s account in the report. One investigator advocated for her and had gone as far as to gain an arrest warrant for Yamaguchi. Yet, his captain prevented the arrest due likely to Yamaguchi’s close relationship with the, at that time, current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The investigator was then transferred to another case as a “promotion.”
“…the almost impossible task it is to prosecute sexual assault in Japan (and the rest of the world)…”
One eye-opening aspect of the Black Box Diaries is the Japanese sentiment toward sexual assault. Unless you have direct evidence that you were raped, accounts of he said/she said always favor the perpetrator in the eyes of Japanese society. The only way to re-open her case, Ito had to go public by holding a press conference. Afterward, she received death threats and was publicly humiliated, endured discussions about the “slutty” way she dressed, her thirst for revenge for not getting a promotion, and her general hatred toward Japan.
The most remarkable part of Black Box Diaries is director Shiori Ito. There’s a dichotomy that exists. On the one hand, Black Box Diaries is an incredibly accomplished documentary. It looks and feels like an A+ doc from how the film follows her from one courtroom to deposition to the myriad of interviews she conducts.
On the other hand, Ito is the subject, and compartmentalizing her trauma is not easy at all. Now, add her trauma to this elusive nature of justice for sexual abuse victims. I don’t know how she keeps it together, and I can not blame her when she can’t.
Black Box Diaries is a powerful documentary about a harrowing journey for sexual assault victims. Justice of Ito is not guaranteed and not necessarily 100% resolved, but it’s important to watch as there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of stories like Ito’s that go untold.
Black Box Diaries screened at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.