Merdeka (2001)

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The title meaning "freedom" in Indonesian, this film -- directed by Yukio Fuji -- is a two-fisted, hinomaru-waving, blood-and-guts ode to the soldiers who died for the glory of the emperor and for Dai Nippon. Based on a real-life incident in which a band of almost one thousand Japanese soldiers helped Indonesian guerillas defeat Dutch colonial forces after the end of the war, this film centers on Lieutenant Shimazaki (Junta Yamada), who lives and breathes the samurai spirit. At the film's outset in 1941, Shimazaki, clutching his samurai sword, forces the simpering Dutch command at Bandung to submit to the Japanese empire. Soon afterwards, he and his men -- including otherworldly Miyata (Noaki Hosaka) and interpreter Yamana (Naomasa Mutaka) -- are ordered to recruit Indonesian youths to whip into an anti-colonial fighting machine. In spite of earning the utmost respect of his charges, Shimazaki's idealism is subverted by nefarious officials in the High Command who want to turn Indonesia into Japan's own colony. By 1945, with the war at an end, Shimazaki not only turns over his arsenal to Indonesian freedom fighters, but he also fights alongside them. This film proved to be a box-office hit and a subject of great controversy due to its unabashedly rosy depiction of World War II and of Japan's often brutal and repressive war effort.