Sundance 2024 Review: Black Box Diaries

by Andrew Parker

Raw and deeply personal, Shiori Ito’s Black Box Diaries documents a female journalist’s multi-year investigation and battle for justice following a sexual assault.

In 2015, Ito, a respected Japanese journalist, was led into a hotel room and abused by a well connected colleague. Outside of security camera footage showing a clearly unwell Ito being basically carried out of a car and into a hotel, the police didn’t find enough evidence to press charges. In Japan, a country where laws against rape haven’t been updated in over a century, the question of consent matters very little when it comes to trying such cases. Making matters worse is the fact that the accused is so well connected to former prime minister Shinzo Abe that he published a biography of the world leader. Undeterred, but understandably stressed out and traumatized, Ito publishes a book about her experiences and fights to get her case recognized in civil court.

Black Box Diaries (a title that refers in part to Ito’s book) encompasses all of the filmmaker and subject’s candid, unfiltered, and sometimes uncomfortably vulnerable thoughts. The frustration is palpable, and Ito’s dedication as a journalist – even when it comes to documenting her own personal hell – is unwavering. 

To fight on such a level, let alone filming everything as it unfolds across eight total years, requires an unprecedented amount of strength and tenacity. It requires Ito to stay in a traumatized headspace of reliving horrifying moments, without any guarantee that anything will ever get better, justice will ever be served, or that things won’t get worse the longer it all drags out. 

Shot from a riveting, gritty first person perspective most of the time, Black Box Diaries is an intimate examination of a broken system for victims writ large and public. It’s a brave piece of work, and one of the best looks at injustice from the perspective of a victim in quite some time.

Black Box Diaries screens as part of the 2024 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival

Monday, April 29, 2024 – 5:00 pm – TIFF Lightbox 1

Friday, May 3, 2024 – 8:45 pm – TIFF Lightbox 1

Black Box Diaries screened as part of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

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