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Binary Hope of Imperial Japan: Abe Yutaka’s The Dawn of Freedom

Sun, June 26, 5:00 to 6:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 101


This presentation will explore Greater East Asia (GEA) on the screen of Imperial Japan, focusing on Abe Yutaka’s The Dawn of Freedom (1944). By analyzing Japanese-Filipino masculine friendship in the film, I will discuss the conflict between the film’s propagandistic intention to represent idealized image of multi-racial GEA and the possibility of (unintended) deviation from heterosexuality in the depiction of the interracial relationship.
The Dawn of Freedom was the first attempt to represent the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere in racially mingled state, staged at Manilla. Whites and Filipinos were hired and English and Tagalog was spoken. Not only did this film respond to the rising anticipation for spectacle in the war film at the time, but it was also “the first ideological warfare on the screen front whose attention was devoted to non-Japanese races in GEA”.
On the other hand, the film insinuated sexuality in the brotherhood-like relationship between Japanese soldiers and the indigenous people. In the wake of U.S.’s loss on the soil of Manilla, American soldiers were shown as mean as it gets while Japanese counterparts were behaving as a friendly companion. Several scholars trace the mark of gender/sexuality subversion from the latter’s case; the male colonizer and the male colonized get involved in a wife-husband relationship, even leading into homoeroticism behind melodramatic setting.
The Dawn of Freedom therefore not only operates in war propaganda context, but also at the level of gender and sexuality, suggesting that it was both a conservative and a liberal project.