‘Black Box Diaries’ Director Shiori Ito Says She Feels ‘Powerful’ Now That Doc About Her Own Sexual Assault Is Out | Video

Sundance 2024: The documentary charts her emotional and physical healing coming forward as a rape survivor

Documentarian and journalist Shiori Ito is finding her own power onscreen, turning her story of sexual assault into her powerful directorial debut, “Black Box Diaries,” premiering at Sundance. The film follows Ito’s 2015 assault and what happened once she went public with it two years later.

“When I published my book, that was 2017, it was the exact time the #MeToo movement happened,” Ito said at TheWrap’s Sundance Portrait and Interview Studio presented by NFP.

But while #MeToo dominated America, it wasn’t really a movement in Japan.

“I always felt very isolated,” she said. “When I published my book, it was more [from] the point-of-view of a journalist.” It was something Ito said she struggled with, feeling like she left her survivor’s side out of the story.

“With this film, it took some time, but I managed to talk and film and show the point-of-view of how I survived and how many women and men [come] through this journey. I felt this was something I needed to tell through documentary film,” Ito said. “For me, it was really helpful that I could take a look at this case, take a look at me, as a journalist and have distance to it.”

The film’s editor went through over 400 hours of footage and, while documenting a very serious topic, was able to find moments of levity to showcase how Ito refused to let her assault define her. “When you think about this tragic story … we’re all human, and we laugh and have a good time, as well. I want to show all of it.”

Ito admitted that she “didn’t even know how hard it would be” to come forward with her story. She was “ignorant” about how rape cases were handled in her native Japan.

“Only 4% of women [in Japan] go to police,” she said. Ito wondered aloud if she’d had even needed to go public if the police had actually looked into her case. “If [the] police investigated, and everything went OK and I could seek justice, I wouldn’t have had to do this all by myself.”

But that wasn’t the case. In fact, Ito relayed that when she reported her assault, the police told her she wouldn’t get to work in the media and her life would be over. It was because of the #MeToo movement in America that her case gained traction, garnering a report in The New York Times. “All the layers of every woman speaking up all over the world really helped me,” she said.

There have been some changes to the laws in Japan regarding consent and sexual assault since Ito came forward. “The good news is we had two steps forward in our law,” she said. “Before, our age of consent with sex was 13 years old. Can you imagine? What were you thinking at 13? Now it’s 15. And before 2017 when I went public, men couldn’t claim rape cases, it was only for women. That changed. Slight changes are happening, which is very slow, but I’m hoping that will change more.”

And while the man who raped Ito continued to keep his job, Ito said he hasn’t diminished her spirit. “It’s not my job to punish him,” she said. “I’m very happy with what I’m doing right now because I felt like he took away my voice and what I can do, and I’m showing I can still work as a journalist. I feel powerful now.”

Watch TheWrap’s full interview with Ito in the video above.

“Black Box Diaries” is a sales title at Sundance.

Check out all our Sundance coverage here

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