Documentary 'The Apology' profiles 'comfort women'

WhatsOn May 03, 2016

Toronto director Tiffany Hsiung tears up when discussing her new documentary "The Apology," about the 200,000 so-called "comfort women" who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War.

In spending six years with the film's subjects — three grandmothers who were among the victims and are now fighting to have their voices heard — she gained the strength to talk about her own experience with sexual violence.

"Now I can speak so freely about it and I know that by me talking about it, another ... person is going to hear that ... and they might be inspired to also do the same — and that weight is like 1,000 pounds off your shoulder," says Hsiung.

"One of our grandmothers goes through that in the film, you just see that weight off her shoulder and you're thinking, 'Do we have to wait until we're 80 or 90 to tell our own family?'

"We can do that now, we can do that today."

Making its world premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, "The Apology" features three women referred to as Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines.

The NFB film begins on an emotional note, with the grandmothers taking part in peaceful protests that are marred by dozens of men shouting derogatory terms at them through megaphones.

Some of the women want a formal apology from the Japanese government, while others simply want to finally share their stories — some 70 years after their imprisonment.

"Some of them, they've never even told their own families before, and so over the six years we have a coming-out story," says Hsiung.

"We have grandmothers who felt like they were going to die with this story, because they were ashamed that their own kids would disown them, and in the six years you watch that journey of an 82-year-old woman come out to her own family, and that's remarkable.

"These women are some of the strongest people I will ever meet in my life."

Hsiung met the women in 2009 when she was invited to document a study tour that was taking educators from North America to Asia to learn about the atrocities.

Like many survivors of sexual abuse, the women were often questioned as to why they didn't speak up or complain sooner. But Hsiung notes that "back then, nobody talked about this."

"If you told anyone in your family, they were going to tell you to shut up because you're going to be unmarried material, so this got passed on from generation to generation."

That sense of shame and silence that continues to plague victims of sexual assault makes this a relevant story, she adds.

"As someone who has personally experienced sexual violence and who's experienced shame and silence, these women are our unsung heroes," says Hsiung.

"They are teaching us that it's never too late to speak out and that we're able to survive, that we can do it."

Hot Docs runs through Sunday.

By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

Documentary 'The Apology' profiles 'comfort women'

WhatsOn May 03, 2016

Toronto director Tiffany Hsiung tears up when discussing her new documentary "The Apology," about the 200,000 so-called "comfort women" who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War.

In spending six years with the film's subjects — three grandmothers who were among the victims and are now fighting to have their voices heard — she gained the strength to talk about her own experience with sexual violence.

"Now I can speak so freely about it and I know that by me talking about it, another ... person is going to hear that ... and they might be inspired to also do the same — and that weight is like 1,000 pounds off your shoulder," says Hsiung.

"One of our grandmothers goes through that in the film, you just see that weight off her shoulder and you're thinking, 'Do we have to wait until we're 80 or 90 to tell our own family?'

"We can do that now, we can do that today."

Making its world premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, "The Apology" features three women referred to as Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines.

The NFB film begins on an emotional note, with the grandmothers taking part in peaceful protests that are marred by dozens of men shouting derogatory terms at them through megaphones.

Some of the women want a formal apology from the Japanese government, while others simply want to finally share their stories — some 70 years after their imprisonment.

"Some of them, they've never even told their own families before, and so over the six years we have a coming-out story," says Hsiung.

"We have grandmothers who felt like they were going to die with this story, because they were ashamed that their own kids would disown them, and in the six years you watch that journey of an 82-year-old woman come out to her own family, and that's remarkable.

"These women are some of the strongest people I will ever meet in my life."

Hsiung met the women in 2009 when she was invited to document a study tour that was taking educators from North America to Asia to learn about the atrocities.

Like many survivors of sexual abuse, the women were often questioned as to why they didn't speak up or complain sooner. But Hsiung notes that "back then, nobody talked about this."

"If you told anyone in your family, they were going to tell you to shut up because you're going to be unmarried material, so this got passed on from generation to generation."

That sense of shame and silence that continues to plague victims of sexual assault makes this a relevant story, she adds.

"As someone who has personally experienced sexual violence and who's experienced shame and silence, these women are our unsung heroes," says Hsiung.

"They are teaching us that it's never too late to speak out and that we're able to survive, that we can do it."

Hot Docs runs through Sunday.

By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

Documentary 'The Apology' profiles 'comfort women'

WhatsOn May 03, 2016

Toronto director Tiffany Hsiung tears up when discussing her new documentary "The Apology," about the 200,000 so-called "comfort women" who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War.

In spending six years with the film's subjects — three grandmothers who were among the victims and are now fighting to have their voices heard — she gained the strength to talk about her own experience with sexual violence.

"Now I can speak so freely about it and I know that by me talking about it, another ... person is going to hear that ... and they might be inspired to also do the same — and that weight is like 1,000 pounds off your shoulder," says Hsiung.

"One of our grandmothers goes through that in the film, you just see that weight off her shoulder and you're thinking, 'Do we have to wait until we're 80 or 90 to tell our own family?'

"We can do that now, we can do that today."

Making its world premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, "The Apology" features three women referred to as Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines.

The NFB film begins on an emotional note, with the grandmothers taking part in peaceful protests that are marred by dozens of men shouting derogatory terms at them through megaphones.

Some of the women want a formal apology from the Japanese government, while others simply want to finally share their stories — some 70 years after their imprisonment.

"Some of them, they've never even told their own families before, and so over the six years we have a coming-out story," says Hsiung.

"We have grandmothers who felt like they were going to die with this story, because they were ashamed that their own kids would disown them, and in the six years you watch that journey of an 82-year-old woman come out to her own family, and that's remarkable.

"These women are some of the strongest people I will ever meet in my life."

Hsiung met the women in 2009 when she was invited to document a study tour that was taking educators from North America to Asia to learn about the atrocities.

Like many survivors of sexual abuse, the women were often questioned as to why they didn't speak up or complain sooner. But Hsiung notes that "back then, nobody talked about this."

"If you told anyone in your family, they were going to tell you to shut up because you're going to be unmarried material, so this got passed on from generation to generation."

That sense of shame and silence that continues to plague victims of sexual assault makes this a relevant story, she adds.

"As someone who has personally experienced sexual violence and who's experienced shame and silence, these women are our unsung heroes," says Hsiung.

"They are teaching us that it's never too late to speak out and that we're able to survive, that we can do it."

Hot Docs runs through Sunday.

By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press