Sundance 2024 Film Review: Black Box Diaries

Documentary Black Box Diaries sends a message about standing with rape victims, even when it’s politically inconvenient or unpopular to do so.

Director Shiori Ito shares the story of her own sexual assault; attempts to have the accused, former TV journalist and buddy to the prime minister, Noriyuki Yamaguchi, prosecuted; backlash she received for speaking out; and her work to change the ways Japanese police and courts handle sexual assault cases. Through it all, we see Ito emerge as a symbol of Japan’s #MeToo movement.

Black Box Diaries splices together secret recordings, audio interviews investigating her case and intimate moments Ito experiences through her years long battle.

We see her during her lowest points — when seemingly everyday things, like blossoms on trees, trigger memories of assault, when family is more concerned about their own stigmatization than supporting her and when an investigator who seems to be making traction is taken off the case after an aborted arrest. The difficult moments are balanced by joyful scenes, like the moment a key witness agrees to go on record and everyone watching sheds tears of joy with Ito.

But the film also has a trigger warning for a reason.

For those unfamiliar with the case, the time range the film covers is surprising: The initial assault occurred in 2015. After an investigation went nowhere, Ito spoke publicly about two years after the incident. Toward the end of 2019, we get a bit of resolution, though legal battles still continue.

The film could have used more explanation regarding how sexual assault prosecutions have changed, if much at all. Maybe at the next Sundance. Ito also shares her story in her memoir, Black Box.

Black Box Diaries is part of the Sundance 2024 World Cinema Documentary Competition.

Upcoming screenings:

Jan. 21, 2:15 p.m., Redstone 1, Park City        
Jan. 25, 5 p.m., Broadway 3, SLC 
Jan. 26, 7:30 p.m., The Ray, SLC

Jaime Winston
Jaime Winston
Jaime is a contributing writer for Salt Lake magazine. Formerly, he served as our editorial intern, then as our assistant web editor, and, finally, as our web editor. While he covers many different topics, he is especially interested in nerdy entertainment, from FanX's artist alley to Sundance's Midnight screenings.

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