Friday, February 05, 2016


It was my honor to serve as the MC for yesterday's  press conference "The Risk of Low Dose Radiation" given by Angelika Claussen, Medical Doctor & European vice-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).  Held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ press release HERE), Dr. Claussen presented her research about the Ukraine, Belarus and Eastern Europe following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, as well as her work pertaining to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  Dr. Claussen's trip to Japan was arranged ahead of the IPPNW's upcoming publication "5 years living with Fukushima - 30 years living with Chernobyl".  

The full video of the press conference can be found HERE and below.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Juggling film

Working on several films simultaneously is like a juggling act, and trying to switch the gears in my head quickly between projects can be quite challenging.  While my aim is to never drop one of the balls, I am also not always able to follow them as they orbit through the air.

An example of this is when I am not able to accompany one of my films to screenings abroad.  While the past three years have seen me traveling abroad nearly every month for screenings in international festivals and conferences, 2016 will see me locked down in the edit suite for the most part as I am currently in post-production for three different feature documentaries that I have been working on for the past several years in the background between trips abroad.

Although I will not be there in person, I will be there in spirit for these upcoming screenings of my film '-1287' (2014).  It is such an honour that this film continues to be programmed and resonate with audiences around the world.  Thank you all so very much for your support!

Detailed information about '-1287' and these upcoming screenings can be found on the film's website (HERE).

Snowtown Film Festival
Watertown, NY, January 29-30, 2016
January 30 at 11:00AM

Lane Honors Program, Lane Community College
Eugene, Oregon,
February 3 at 4:30PM

SoCal Film Fest
Huntington Beach, California, February 10-13, 2016
February 11 at 4PM

Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival Tour
Various cities, Taiwan, March-June 2016
Screening cities, dates and times TBA

========================== January 24, 2016 UPDATE =====================

Ahead of the screening in Snowtown Film Festival, THIS article was published in my hometown newspaper, the Watertown Daily Times.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dying at Home

 ***** UPDATE January 28, 2016 at 22:00 START *****

"Dying at Home" is now available to watch FREE online worldwide until February 10, 2016 on the NHK World website (HERE).   Thank you all so much for watching and for your support!

 ***** UPDATE January 28, 2016 at 22:00 END *****

It has already been a wonderful but busy start to the new year.  After the winter break split between visits with family in the US and Japan, I was back to work on the documentary program commissioned by NHK World.  I have been working on the film, called "Dying at Home", since last summer, and we locked picture on it last month (STORY).  Last week, we completed the English subtitles for the film, and the materials for the PR of the film were prepared.  The 28-minute program, about Dr. Konta, a home physician in Fukushima, will be premiering across the globe on NHK World on January 27 (more info on that below).

Not wanting to lose momentum, I traveled back to Fukushima last weekend to continue filming for the feature version of the film.  While the 28-minute version documents the time I spent with Dr. Konta over five months last year, the feature version will document an entire year of home visits with her patients over the backdrop of Mount Bandai and Lake Inawashiro changing colours across four gorgeous seasons.

Photo from this week's shoot in Fukushima, courtesy Dr. Konta's Facebook page
Although the 28-minute version will only be screening on NHK World, "Dying at Home" will be featured on NHK 1, the main channel in Japan, on a show called "Doki Doki World TV".  Filmed in November (PHOTOS), that program will be airing this coming Sunday (Jan 17) at 10:40pm on NHK1 (INFO).

"Dying at Home" be screening four times on January 26/ 27/ 28 (depending on your time zone), and can be viewed across the globe via LIVE streaming on the NHK World website (info and schedule HERE).   Thank you all so very much for your support!

Broadcast Schedule JST (Japan) 
  • Wed, Jan 27 at 8:30
  • Wed, Jan 27 at 14:30
  • Wed, Jan 27 at 21:30
  • Thurs, Jan 28 at 2:30
***** The above website should list the schedule for the timezone in which it is accessed.  For times on the NHK World channel, please check the local listings. *****

 ***** UPDATE January 17, 2016 at 23:00 *****

Here are some stills from tonight's broadcast of Doki Doki World TV on which I appeared to promote the upcoming broadcast of "Dying at Home":

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review

Thanks to so many family and friends, 2015 has been another year full of humbling experiences.  In 2013, I began posting the year's highlights (HERE), a tradition I continued in 2014 (HERE).  The highlights for 2015 are below.  Thank you all so very much for your continued support and encouragement.



The year began with continued Japan domestic screenings of my documentary 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) in Tokyo (HERE) and Beppu (HERE).  Later in the month, I was invited to speak at Sophia University in Tokyo (HERE).

My short documentary "Even the Birds Need to Be Loved" was awarded at the Snowtown USA Film Festival (INFO).  The first class I taught at the University of Tokyo came to a close, and as the 4th anniversary of the 3.11 disaster approached, screenings of my film 'A2-B-C' continued with a trip to Shimane (HERE).  After returning to Tokyo, I spoke about filmmaking in Japan at the Japan Visual-media Translation Academy (STORY).

Prior to the 4th anniversary of the 3.11 disaster, I posted links to all of the early short documentaries I filmed after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster (LINK).  A decision to cancel what would have been the first public screening of 'A2-B-C' in Fukushima was made (bottom of previous link).  This turned out to be a harbinger of a very difficult series of events that would follow in quick succession, beginning with the posting of a disclaimer on the Japanese website for the film (STORY).  With interest in the nuclear disaster peaking around the time of the anniversary, I traveled to San Diego for a screening of 'A2-B-C' a the Museum of Photographic Arts in the Balboa Park (STORY).  From there, I flew to Vancouver where the film was presented in a conference about the 3.11 disaster (STORY).  The day after returning home to Japan, I visited Nagano for a screening of 'A2-B-C' from where I posted a widely seen photograph and blog about the sudden cancellation of domestic distribution of the film (STORY).  Later in the month, the dissolution of the screening committee was announced (HERE).

After the events of the previous month, it was clear that my life was never going to be the same.  Trying to understand exactly what was happening and the unseen motivations behind them proved for a stressful few weeks evidenced by uncharacteristically forgetting appointments and misplacing important things, like my camera (story HERE).  However, there was no time for a break as screenings of 'A2-B-C' abroad continued, and I traveled to Nebraska (STORY), followed by the North American premier of my new film '-1287' (WEBSITE) in the Ashland International Film Festival (STORY).

Screenings of '-1287' continued, with the Asian premier of the film in the Taiwan International Documentary Festival HERE and HERE.  Upon returning to Japan, a press conference about the cancellation of domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' was held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (STORY).  Later that week, my video and accompanying article called "Radiation, Secrets and Lives" was published by the Japan Times (STORY).

For the second time, I attended the Nippon Connection Film Festival, where my film '-1287' received the Audience Award (STORY).  This was followed by a week of screenings of several of my films at the Werkstattkino in Munich (STORY).

In an article for the magazine '5', I came out... for the second time (ARTICLE).  I also marked 15 years since first moving to Japan (STORY).  I began research on a film about a hospice doctor in Japan, a project that would later in the year be commissioned by NHK, the public broadcaster in Japan.

The Japan domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' were re-established (STORY), and I was interviewed for a BBC World New Report about the re-start of nuclear reactors in Japan (INFO).  An in-depth article about the cancellation and re-start of domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' was published by Asashi Digital (STORY).

The first screening of 'A2-B-C' in six months were held (STORY) and several screenings of both that film and '-1287' were announced (HERE).  I traveled to Korea were I visited the DMZ (PHOTOS) and the DMZ Docs Film Festival, where '-1287' received a jury award (STORY).

My film '-1287' screened again in Taiwan, this time in the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (STORY).  After returning home to Japan, I began teaching a class in Oral Histories at the University of Tokyo and an introduction to filmmaking class at the Japan Visual-media Translation Academy.

I was deep in production on the documentary commissioned by NHK (PHOTOS).  Screenings of '-1287' continued in several US cities (HERE) and the film received the People's Choice award at the Lake Champlain International Film Festival (STORY).  After returning from the festival, I began post-production on the film for NHK.

While wrapping up the teaching on my two classes, I was also wrapping up post-production on the NHK commission, and the episode I directed was selected to represent the series (STORY).

Thank you all again so very much for your support and encouragement during this last year.  I ask for your continued support in the coming year, and hope 2016 will be filled with much Peace and Health for you all.

Ian Thomas Ash
Tokyo, Japan

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dead lock

After a long submission process that began in the summer, in October I received confirmation that the proposal I had submitted for an episode of the NHK World documentary series "Inside Lens" had been selected for commissioning.  NHK World (WEBSITE), a branch of the Japanese public broadcaster, creates original news and documentary programs, and for its series "Inside Lens" nearly every episode is directed by a foreign director living in Japan

With just two months to complete the film before a delivery date at the end of December and an airing date in January, I slowed production on a couple of my current film projects while placing others on hold.  Thankfully, from September, I have had a new intern, and his help as an assistant, sound recordist, assistant director and more, has helped me be as productive as ever while also enabling me to continue traveling to film festivals and screenings of my other films.

The documentary program (still untitled) is about a home hospice doctor in rural Japan who is caring for dozens of patients who wish to die in their own homes surrounded by their family and loved ones.  With advances in the medical system since WWII, dying at home has become increasingly uncommon in Japan.  In 1953, 85% of Japanese died at home; by 2013, that number had dropped to just 15%.  The services this doctor and her team are offering are quite rare in Japan.

Since filming the main interviews in the beginning of November (STORY), we have been in the edit suite for the last month.  Last night we "locked picture" on the film, which means that the narrative editing of the film is finished and we are moving on to the next stage of post-production, including colour-grading, sound mixing and subtitling.  A 28-minute version of the film will be screening globally on NHK World starting January 27.  I am also planning to continue filming with this amazing hospice doctor and her team of nurses to expand the film into a feature documentary.

The picture-locked project
A celebratory drink after the picture lock
Earlier this month, I also received the additional honour of being selected to represent all of this season's episodes of "Inside Lens" on national television.  Filmed a couple of weeks ago, I will appear on the television program "Doki Doki TV" with celebrity hosts Patrick Harlan and Chiaki Horan, in an episode that will air on January 17 on the main NHK channel in Japan. 

with TV personalities Patrick Harlan and Chiaki Horan
On set of Doki Doki TV
Getting prepped for filming
Although I did put much of my other filming work on hold while working on the episode of "Inside Lens", I continued teaching in between shoots in Fukushima and trips abroad to attend film festivals.  This semester saw me again teaching at the University of Tokyo.  This time I was teaching a class in Oral Histories, which culminated in the students working in groups to record an oral history.  I was also teaching at the Japan Visualmedia Translation Academy.  Teaming up with tech guru and Running Art sensation Joseph Tame (WEBSITE), we taught an introduction to filmmaking class geared to working professionals (HERE).  Our student Hitomi Nakatani created one of the more experimental pieces, and it is really cool (LINK). 

While we are still wrapping up post-production on the episode of "Inside Lens", my attention is already turning back to several of my films in various stages of post-production that have been on hold these past couple of months, including one I am still hoping to finish for the 5th anniversary of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima...

Monday, November 16, 2015

People's Choice

It was an honour to be invited to attend the 2nd Annual Lake Champlain International Film Festival (LCIFF) this weekend, where my documentary '-1287' (WEBSITE) was screened.  At the closing ceremony of the festival last night, I was extremely honoured to receive the People's Choice (Audience) Award.  While jury awards are indeed a great honour, it is truly humbling to receive an audience award voted on by cinema-goers from among all the films screened.

Last year, I was able to attend the inaugural edition of the festival, where I received the 'Golden Honeycomb' (grand prize) for my films 'A2-B-C' (2013) and 'In the Grey Zone' (2012) (STORY).  My attendance at the first two editions of the festival was made possible through the support of both the festival and of Plattsburgh State University (PSU).  A graduate of the English Department (with a minor in theatre), it was my absolute pleasure to be asked to visit classes at my alma matar to share both about my work and life in Japan as well as how my education at the university prepared me for the films I make.  Visiting six classes in all (Trauma Narratives, Food and Film, Autobiography, Outsiders, Mythology and Poetry), it was a wonderful experience to meet and speak with so many students.  Their engaged and intelligent questions caused me to think about my own work in different ways, and I was reminded again that through teaching the teacher learns.

with LCIFF staff member/ filmmaker Simon Conroy and PSU professor/ filmmaker Michael Devine
The beautifully curated festival began on Friday and packed dozens of films into the three-day event.  In between fascinating films from across the world, it was an additional pleasure to spend time with old friends, like former classmate/ filmmaker/ festival founding member Jason Torrance, former classmate/ -1287 producer Sarah Lushia, and former classmate/ festival staff member Maya Saroj (PHOTO below).  Even the venue was nostalgic- held in the newly renovated Stand Theatre (INFO), this is where my European Films class came to watch films back in the day when the former vaudeville theatre had been haphazardly converted into a multi-screen cinema fire trap with sticky floors.

with Jason, Sarah and Maya

As the Lake Champlain International Film Festival staff works toward its 3rd edition and beyond, I wish them all the best.  I am proud to be an alum of both the university and the festival, and look forward to all that is to come.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Droning on...

It has been a month since my last blog.  It isn't that there hasn't been much to write about, in fact it has been the opposite; ironically the more I have to write about, the less time I have to write.

This has been a very full month, filed with four trips to Fukushima where I am currently working on two films.  This month has also seen the start of two courses I am teaching, one at the University of Tokyo (called "Japan in Asia: Oral Histories") and one at the Japan Visualmedia Translation Academy on filmmaking. 

Just back from Fukushima, I am now at the airport on my way to New York, where my film '-1287' (WEBSITE) is screening in the 2nd annual Lake Champlain International Film Festival (INFO).  While there, I will also have the honour of visiting classes at the University of Plattsburgh, my alma mater (2000).  This is the second time to screen at LCIFF after my films "In the Grey Zone" (2012) and "A2-B-C" (2013) screened in the inaugural edition of the festival last year (STORY).

link to article HERE
I look forward to sharing more about the films I am working on in Fukushima in the coming months, but in the meantime, I will share a few recent location photographs.