Freitag, 19. November 2021, 18:00–20:30 Ushiku: Special Preview screening ahead of Japan Theatrical Release Ausgebucht!

‘Ushiku’ takes viewers deep into the psychological and physical environment inhabited by foreign detainees in one of the largest immigration centres in Japan. On the eve of Japan’s recent – and highly contentious – immigration reform efforts, the director bypasses the media blackout the government has imposed on its immigration centres, bringing viewers into immediate contact with the detainees, many of whom are refugees seeking asylum. Detainees are held indefinitely and subject to violent deportation attempts by Japanese authorities against a background of the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic and with the spectacle of the Tokyo Olympics looming on the immediate horizon.

Ushiku Poster V1_100export_comp

Thomas Ash is a documentary filmmaker living in Japan. In his films, he broadly focuses on issues surrounding health and medicine, including two feature documentaries about children living in areas of Fukushima contaminated by the 2011 nuclear meltdown, ‘In the Grey Zone’ (2012) and ‘A2-B-C’ (2013). His recent work has focused on death and dying and includes ‘-1287’ (2014) and ‘Sending Off’ (2019). Thomas served as Executive Producer of ‘Boys for Sale’ (2017, dir: Itako), a documentary about male sex workers in Tokyo.

Director’s statement
I first began visiting the immigration facility in Ushiku as a volunteer and was deeply affected by hearing the stories of some of the people being detained. It was only then that I began to think about how to use the power of film to bring this story to the attention of the Japanese public and the world. My motivation was not to make a film, but rather as a witness to human rights violations, I felt morally compelled to document evidence in the form of filming the detainees’ testimonies; to document their truth.

The death of Wishma Sandamali Rathnayake in March 2021, who had been detained for 7 months at an immigration centre in Nagoya, and the deaths of 16 others over the past 15 years, demonstrates why so many supporters are concerned about the health and wellbeing of people suffering in indefinite detention Japan.

Most of the family names and nationalities of the participants in the film are not revealed, nor is the reason why they applied for refugee status in Japan. This is to protect them as much as possible.

The participants have given their consent to have their faces shown, their voices heard and their stories shared. I am deeply grateful for their trust in sharing their truth, despite the risks. I pray their courageousness and strength will inspire all who witness it to work towards addressing the injustices around them.


  • Nippon Docs Award (Audience Award) at the 2021 Nippon Connection FF (Germany)
  • Asian Perspective Award (First Prize in Asian Competition) at the 2021 DMZ Docs FF (Korea)
  • Camera Japan Award (Audience Award) at the 2021 Camera Japan Festival (Holland)

The film (87 min.) is in Japanese with English subtitles. After the film screening there will be discussion with filmmaker Thomas Ash, Professor Ai Kihara-Hunt (The University of Tokyo) and several protagonists in English/Japanese.

Registration is obligatory by November 15 via dijtokyo(at) or via
Registrations will be accepted on a first-come-first-served basis. All accepted registrations will be confirmed by e-mail.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the number of participants is limited to 100 people. Ample space between the seats will be provided. Free choice of seating.
Please note that you have to be either vaccinated or recovered for attending this event (German ‘2G’-rule, i.e. ‘geimpft, genesen’)
Respiratory masks are mandatory. You can bring your own drinks or buy soft drinks from the vending machine in the basement.
For further information:

In cooperation with the German Insitute for Japanese Studies (DIJ) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation (FES).

Please note that you have to be either vaccinated or recovered for attending this event.