(director: Shiori Ito; cinematographer: Yuta Okamura; editor: Ema Ryan Yamazaki; music: Mark De Gli Antoni; cast:  Shiori Ito; Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Eric Nyari, Hanna Aqvilin, Shiori Ito; Spark Features; 2024-Japan/USA/UK-in Japanese with English subtitles)

“Uses the power of the filmmaker’s documentary-journalism to show how she was victimized by both the rapist and the legal system.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Japanese filmmaker and journalist Shiori Ito (“Yuparo My Beautiful Dying City”) bravely and candidly openly confronts the Japanese legal system for its failure to prosecute her rape case, despite causing her great mental stress, trauma, and personal shame with her family. She goes all out in pointing out how ineffectively the flawed Japanese legal system handled her case.

Ito tells of all the grief she has put up with over the attack, that’s made worse when the assailant is never charged with the crime after she went public with the rape charges and introduced valid evidence against him. By going public her case became a groundbreaking #MeToo one in Japan.

Ito in the spring of 2015 was a young intern at Thomson Reuters when the rape took place in a hotel room. The perp was Noriyuki Yamaguchi, a noted media figure with political connections, who was working at the Tokyo Broadcasting System Television at the time. He wrote the official biography for the former prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, and the well-connected rapist was able to get away with the crime.

The Black Box Diaries uses the power of the filmmaker’s documentary-journalism
to show how she was victimized by both the rapist and the legal system. By openly seeking justice in the courts and not getting it, Ito exposes Japan’s outdated judicial system and its outdated societal values, forcing the system to deal with its faulty legal system while under public scrutiny.

Because of this case, in 2017 it was the first time in over a 100 years Japan enacted new needed sexual crime laws of reform. Even if the country still needs more reforms, it’s at least a start in the right direction.

The film’s title comes from Ito’s book Black Box. The book tells of her rape and that the  charges were dismissed by the courts because the rapist was politically connected. She calls out a prosecutor who said the hotel room where the rape took place was a ‘black box’ and it could not be determined what took place in it.

Ito’s case rallied scores of female journalists to her side, and her meeting with them was a riveting part of the film.

Closure came when Ito won a civil lawsuit against the rapist and won back her good name, as he lost his.

It played at the Sundance Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 2/21/2024  GRADE: A-