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In Session: The Afterimages of Empire: Visual Media and Sino-Japanese Crosscurrents
3: Film and Japanese Cultural Policies in Wartime Singapore
Friday, March 26, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan
In December of 1941, the Japanese Army invaded most parts of Southeast Asia and established a military administration in each occupied area. While Japanese cultural and media policies in its colonies and occupied areas were understood to be primarily concerned with central control, total mobilization, and assimilation, the characteristics and emphases of Japanese military rule in fact varied from region to region. This paper examines how Japan utilized popular media, specifically films, in Japanese-occupied Singapore, uncovering the fissures between film propaganda policy planned in Tokyo and actual practice and implementation.
This paper begins by identifying the specific types of films that were screened in wartime Singapore. Through a review of English-language newspapers from this period, I demonstrate that before the August 1943 ban on films produced in Allied countries, the films shown in Singapore were in fact mostly American, with only a limited number of Japanese productions. After the full-scale introduction of Japanese films in September 1943, the local branch of the Japanese state-backed film distribution agency in Singapore had little choice but to adopt more realistic policies that diverged from Tokyo’s agenda. This paper reveals how the curated selection of films, and the particular modes through which these films were introduced to the local audience, present an opening for a fuller understanding of Japanese perceptions of themselves and others.