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Hanayo Oya, a Fulbright fellow based at the Investigative Reporting Program, has won Japan’s most prestigious film award for her latest documentary, Boy Soldiers: the Secret War in Okinawa (co-directed by Chie Mikami). The award ceremony was held Feb. 10 in Tokyo.

Oya and her co-director were presented the award for best documentary film of the year at the the 92nd Kinema Junpo ceremony, which honored the top Japanese movies released during 2018. Boy Soldiers explores the secret war carried out by local youth during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa toward the end of World War II. These boys in their early teens were trained in guerrilla warfare. The film documents how the Japanese military manipulated Okinawans, resulting in the death of 120,000 local people.

In her acceptance speech, Oya thanked the Battle of Okinawa’s survivors who shared their untold stories in front of her camera after 73 years of silence. “Making this documentary was extremely important to teach the Japanese people the lessons of war, especially because democracy and freedom of expression are in danger in our country,” said Oya. The ceremony was shown on TV and covered across Japan.

Kinema Junpo is Japan’s oldest movie magazine, first published in 1919. It celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. It handed out some of the world’s first movie awards in 1924. The prize is considered the most prestigious film award in Japan and carries a lot more weight than the Japan Academy Prize.

Boy Soldiers has received five awards, including the Kinema Junpo award. Although the film has not yet been screened in the U.S., it had its international premiere in September 2018 at the Busan International Film Festival of South Korea, the largest film festival in Asia.

To learn more about the film, please visit its Mainichi (English) and The Japan Times (English).

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