Anger in Japan over film about murdered British teacher Anger in Japan as film about the killing of English teacher Lindsay Hawker glosses over her rape and murder By Julian Ryall, Tokyo3:41PM GMT 09 Nov 2013
Japanese cinema-goers have expressed their distaste for a film released on Saturday that depicts the years English teacher Lindsay Hawker’s killer went on the run after her murder in March 2007.
Produced by Sedic International and based on the book that Tatsuya Ichihashi wrote while he was awaiting trial, “I am Ichihashi: Journal of a Murderer” largely glosses over the rape and murder of 22-year-old Hawker, from Brandon in Warwickshire. Instead, in focuses on how he evaded the police, endured hardship while on the run, hid on a remote desert island and earned money on construction sites to pay for plastic surgery. The film also shows Ichihashi, played by the actor Dean Fujioka, performing surgery on himself with a razor blade and a pair of scissors in an effort to conceal his identity.
Bill Hawker displays a picture of his daughter, Lindsay Ann, at Chiba district court
Postings in online chat rooms suggested that efforts to portray a stoical Ichihashi as heroic for avoiding capture had backfired. “I think it’s really strange that people have made a film in which the hero is a murderer,” one commentator on the 2Channel site wrote. “I think the company that made this must be mad.”
Another commented, “The company that made this film needed to get the agreement of Lindsay’s family before starting. It is inevitable that foreigners are now going to think of Japan as a place where we make murderers into heroes.” Hawker’s family declined to comment on the release of the film, but expressed their anger in a statement when the movie project was first announced, in November 2011. Not everyone has criticised the film, however, with one of the high-profile guests at the gala opening screening of the film in Tokyo on Friday evening praising it as “interesting” and “really authentic.” Sedic International did not contact the Hawker family before or during the filming of the movie, but have stated that the title does not attempt to defend Ichihashi or play down his crimes. Ichihashi declined to cooperate with the film, even though it was based on his book, and a spokesman said that it was unclear what would happen to any royalties.
Ichihashi also refused to meet Fujioka before filming. Her family appeal for her safe return A spokesman for the company also told The Japan Times that “the privacy of the victim was taken into consideration and no scenes from the film focus on the victim or depict Hawker in any disrespectful way.” The closest the film comes to showing Hawker’s death is a scene in which Ichihashi is seen pouring sand and gravel into a bath. Hawker’s body was concealed in a bath tub on the balcony of Ichihashi’s apartment. Ichihashi was finally arrested on November 10, 2009, exactly four years ago, as he waited to board a ferry from the port city of Osaka to the island of Okinawa. His identity was confirmed through fingerprints, although he reportedly told the officer that arrested him, “I am Ichihashi.” His arrest brought to an end a manhunt that had been triggered after the naked body of Ms Hawker, a graduate of Leeds University, was found in the bath tub.
Her clothes were strewn around the apartment, she had been severely beaten and police believe she had been confined for as long as 36 hours before being strangled. A teacher at the Koiwa branch of the Nova language school, Ichihashi had apparently talked her into giving him an English lesson in March 2007 in a cafe close to Gyotoku Station before claiming to have no cash with him. Ichihashi and Ms Hawker were then seen on a TV monitor leaving the cafe before they took a taxi to his nearby apartment to get the money to pay her. After escaping from police, there were various theories as to how Ichihashi had managed to avoid arrest, including that he had fled the country, had committed suicide or was being protected by friends or his wealthy family. Ichihashi’s father is a doctor and his mother a respected dentist, but their expression of “regret” for the death of Ms Hawker and their failure to call on their son to surrender angered her family.