Bashing – Writer, director Masahiro Kobayashi presents a dark and surprising side of volunteer work in Bashing, starring Fukaso Urabe as Yuko, a young woman who decided to volunteer in the Middle East but was kidnapped and then released. However, instead of her nation being relieved at her safe return home, she is considered a disgrace for having the courage to volunteer within a region at war. For her alleged “crime”, she and her family had to endure harassment in public and at work. Kobayashi’s Bashing is based on a true story of a woman who was subjected to harassment for volunteering as an aid worker in Iraq.
Yuko begins her shift where she works as a housekeeper in a local hotel. Her boss calls her outside to discuss her return from the war zone and to make her aware that a co-worker was researching opinions about her Internet. Since she was considered as an ill reflection on the establishment, she was fired with full severance pay–she pleaded with her boss that she needed the job and the money. Regardless, she was terminated and threatened not to return to aid work. It was hard to believe that being a foreign aid volunteer was a shameful endeavor. She wanted to see the world and its people and yet, has to endure public shaming and anger. At home, the answering machine was filled with hateful messages.
Her father (Ryûzô Tanaka) had to endure the same mistreatment. He lost his job after thirty years at the same company. His supervisor his supervisor suggested to him to change his identity. He resulted to drinking heavily.
Yuko could only watch as the people in her life dissipated one by one. She had to end a long-term relationship with her boyfriend. He told her that she is stubborn and instead of helping foreigners–she should have stayed and helped the people of Japan. Her girlfriends suggest she settle for an arranged marriage. Her life was no longer how she remembered it–she began to long for the time during her volunteering. Where she felt needed–a time where children would call her name as she handed out Japanese treats.
Bashing offers an interesting insight into Japanese culture and its homogenous society. The film showcased a form of alienation towards an activity that would normally be viewed as a positive personality trait within American society. How could volunteering be seen as a selfish quality?
Harassed for helping others.
The film implied that the people in her community necessity to blend in and conform with one another. Yuko’s volunteering to help others, not of her own society, was seen as an attempt to avoid cultural harmony and on a whim, pursued an alternate form of happiness outside the cultural norm. Some even considered her to be a coward for “escaping death”–if she had died, she would have been held to a martyr status.
The cinematography of the film is a fitting compliment to the subject matter; with the gray surrounding and slightly dim filter, facilitating the cold, depressing environment Yuko experiences; her character’s appearance also mimicked the atmosphere’s isolation and neglect–her hair is choppy; her eyes are longingly deep and sunken. You could see just how much of a toll the harassment had on her and her family. Harboring fear of what actions her community has committed–and still will commit–against her.
The film prevailed in an uncomfortable silence also, could have used more dialogue and perhaps a glimpse at her experiences in the Middle East—flashbacks of the children calling her name, smiling at her, appreciating what she has done for them. Extending out their little hands to receive their treats, adorning her with kisses.