Photo/IllutrationMitsunobu Kawamura, right, president of Star Sands Inc., at the Tokyo International Film Festival 2019 in October with Isoko Mochizuki, a journalist and protagonist in his documentary (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A Tokyo film production company will sue the Japan Arts Council for withdrawing public funds to its movie after an actor in the cast was found guilty of drug use, denouncing the action as unconstitutional and illegal.

Star Sands Inc. criticized the council’s decision, which cited “the standpoint of public interest,” and demanded that the grant not be pulled.

The company plans to file a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court.

The Japan Arts Council decided in July to pull a 10 million yen ($92,000) grant to the movie, “Miyamoto kara Kimi e” (From Miyamoto to you). The film, directed by Tetsuya Mariko, was a live-action drama based on a manga.

The council is a government-affiliated organization that selects recipients of funds to promote the arts and culture. It is under the oversight of the Agency for Cultural Affairs.

Mitsunobu Kawamura, president of Star Sands, said his company was notified by the council that its movie was selected to receive the funds in March.

But in July, the council informed the company of the withdrawal of the money after Pierre Taki, who played a minor role in “Miyamoto kara Kimi e,” was found guilty of using cocaine and handed a suspended 18-month prison sentence in June.

The council said it is “inappropriate” to fund the movie from “the standpoint of public interest.”

Star Sands said “the public interest” was not part of the criteria in the provision of grants in March and thus the council "abused its discretionary power" by pulling the money.

In September, the council revised its funding guidelines to allow for the cancellation of funding from the standpoint of public interest.

A representative with Star Sands said, “The decision not to give funds on the basis of the cast, which is the very foundation of cinematic expression, amounts to the restriction of freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

But a council official in charge of the matter defended the decision concerning the withdrawal as “not illegal.”

“Although we had initially offered the funding, we discussed the issue to make a final decision after confirming the fact that the actor in the movie was found guilty,” the official said.

The official declined to comment over Star Sands’ accusation that the council’s action constitutes a restriction of freedom of expression.

(This article was written by Noriki Ishitobi, senior staff writer, and Kenji Komine.)