Among my favorite films about controversy management, there are those that deal with the theme of difference of perspective, very useful to get into the “situation” linked to this topic and to understand the premiss . This is the case of the film “Flags of our fathers”, describing the true story of one of the most famous pictures in war history, taken in 1945 on the top of a hill on the island of Iwo Jima. “At the beginning of 1945, almost at the end of the war, six marines were photographed while raising, on the top of the hill of the island of Iwo Jima, the American flag. Iwo, vital and sacred japanese territory, was a cruel battle. This picture became the symbol of the actions and the heart of whom battled and there were those who said that this picture made it possible to win the war”. The narration of the story (that brings to light a hidden truth) became the opportunity to relive, in the eyes and mind of the american soldiers that participated in it, the famous (and cruel) battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most famous of World War II, and one of the symbols of the conflict between Americans and Japaneses that finished in August 1945, with the two terrible bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The same happens in its “twin”, “Letters from Iwo Jima”. The scene is from this film, which has the director and is from 2006 as well. In this second film, however, the point of view changes and the “main characters” now are the Japanese soldiers that, aware of the difficult task that awaits them, write at their own families. It is through the letters that you find that the words of the japanese soldiers are not so different from the words that could write the american soldiers. On the contrary, the love for their families, that is evident in the letters, is exactly the same of the Americans, as well as the sweet memory of home and the fear of not surviving the battle and many other aspects that put in evidence a “world”, the world of the soldiers before a terrible task.

Therefore, from the point of view of negotiation and mediation, the merit of both Clint Eastwood films is to make us see the war through “the eyes of the other”, knowing that (as viewers) the others, for the others, are us. At the question What were the feelings within the two sides, before one of the decisive battles of the Pacific war? The director gives a convincing answer, and does so through these films, which describe the “behind the scenes” of the two armies before the clash.

Therefore, the mixed message that comes up from the two visions of both films, once deepened the American point of view and framed in the Japanese scenario, is that “If you actually knew whom you have before you, maybe you wouldn’t hate them, like it happens in all wars” It is exactly what we see represented in one of the most beautiful scenes in Letters from Iwo Jima, when Japanese soldiers find an American soldier dead, and the commander reads out loud the letter that he had sent to his mom at home. The look of the Japanese soldiers is significant on the “paradigm change.”

In conclusion, both films are an invitation to deepen the knowledge of the other, to not rely on first impressions, and to abandon the picture of an “enemy” that often covers any further reflections of our interlocutors, that might be there, like us, feeling our own feelings. And it is this, in my opinion, the message to work on in order to propose the vision of the two films in a training course.The conflict, the same conflict, seen through the eyes of the two contenders… the best way to find points in common, elements of contact, a single reconstruction made of different “visions” of the conflict.


Stefano Cera


Buy the film

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“Letters from Iwo Jima” A film by Clint Eastwood with Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara. USA / Japan, 2006

"Negotiation (Harvard Business Essentials Series)" by Michael Wheeler

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