With The Apology, Tiffany Hsiung’s ambition is to reveal a profound and horrible injustice: during World War II, the Japanese army forced over 200,000 girls and young women into sexual slavery. Euphemistically referred to as “comfort women” or “grandmas”, the Japanese government has never apologized to the women victimized by this barbaric practice. The Apology tells the story of three of these women as they struggle for justice, understanding, and peace decades after their terrible ordeals. While each woman’s fight takes its own form, they share a palpable need to heal long-open wounds by sharing their stories with others.
Hsiung focuses on three Grandmas, each from a different country. Grandma Gil lives in Seoul and participates in protests demanding an official apology from the Japanese embassy. Grandma Cao lives in Yu Xian, China and is one of the oldest living grandmas. Her story was featured in the book “Women in the Comfort Station”, which is one of the few collections of accounts of these women. Grandma Adela lives in Roxas City, Philippines, and participates in a local support group for comfort women called the Lolas Kampaneras.
Given the nature of the subject, The Apology is an incredibly difficult film to watch and consider. The heartache and tragedy builds upon itself as each detail of these women’s hardships is revealed. The women are often presented in extreme close-up shots, confronting the audience with their tales and leaving us no room to wiggle out of the truth. Their emotional states, both past and current, also contribute to the overall mood of the film. As a meager example, two of the grandmas haven’t even told their family about these events. Predictably, they explain their secrecy as inspired by guilt, shame, and a fear that their family members will lose respect for them. Thus, every day is bitter reminder.
As the fight for an apology continues, Tiffany Hsiung’s film will play a vital part in the struggle. Grandma Gil herself explains the potential power behind The Apology when she remarks “day by day, all we can do is teach the world about our experience.” Hence, this amazing film is a volley at the hearts and minds of men and women everywhere, absolving them of their blissful ignorance.
Saturday, Apr 30, 6:30 PM, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Sunday, May 1, 10:30 AM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sunday, May 8 12:45 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.