Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Three screenings, three countries

I am extremely honoured to have screenings of my films in several countries this week!

On Wednesday (May 25) the Korean film festival DMZ DOCS is holding an encore screening of my film '-1287' (WEBSITE) for "family month" (May) at 20:00 (INFO). I was honoured to receive the First Prize in the Asian Competition at the 2015 edition of the festival (STORY).

On Friday (May 27), my documentary 'Dying at Home' (WEBSITE), which was commissioned by NHK World, will be screened at 20:00 during a special event organized by NHK WORLD at the 2016 Nippon Connection Japanese Film Festival in Frankfurt, Germany (INFO).  I have had the honour of attending two previous editions of Nippon Connection; in 2013 when I received the Nippon Visions Award for my film 'A2-B-C' (STORY) and in 2015 when I received the Audience Award for Best Feature Film for my film '-1287' (STORY).

And on Saturday (May 28), '-1287' will be screening in the touring section of the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (INFO) in Taoyuan.  I was honoued to have my film 'A2-B-C' screened in the 2013 edition of TIEFF (STORY) and also to attend last year's main festival with '-1287' (STORY).
Thank you all so much for your encouragement and continued support of my work.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Young woman from Fukushima speaks out 原発事故当時15歳女性の証言


For each of the last four days, I have published a part of an interview I filmed with a brave, young woman from Fukushima about her diagnosis of thyroid cancer.  Following are some details about the interview as well as some data for reference.  Part 1 of the interview can be viewed by clicking the following link, while the entire four-part interview can be seen HERE.

This interview was filmed on February 12, 2016, in Fukushima Prefecture. The young woman was 15 at the time of the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, and we are releasing this interview with her permission. She is one of the 166 Fukushima residents aged 18 or younger at the time of the nuclear disaster who has been diagnosed with or suspected of having thyroid cancer (as of February 2016).

Fukushima residents who were 18 years old or younger at the time of the nuclear accident have been asked to participate in the free and voluntary thyroid ultrasound examination which is part of the Fukushima Health Management Survey. However, 18.8% of this age group were not tested in the 1st round of testing.* The final results for the 2nd round of testing are not yet complete, however, every year the number of children participating in the official thyroid examinations is decreasing. In fact, the number of children who have not participated in the 2nd round of testing is currently 50.7%**  For those young people aged 18-21 (as of April 1, 2014) and who were living in Fukushima at the time of the nuclear accident, 74.5% have not yet taken part in the voluntary thyroid ultrasound examination.**

This young woman’s reason for speaking out is to motivate the families of children who have not yet received the thyroid ultrasound examination to do so.

Below is a summary of the main points of the young woman’s story:
1) She often gets tired easily after undergoing surgery for thyroid cancer.
2) She sometimes feels emotionally unstable after the surgery.
3) She has no medical doctor with whom she can talk comfortably.
4) She does not want other Fukushima children/ adolescents to develop thyroid cancer.
5) She wants young residents in Fukushima to undergo regular thyroid checkups, so that thyroid cancer cases may be detected early.
6) She is anxious about the possible health implications on her future children.
In sharing her story about a topic which has become increasingly difficult to talk publicly about in Japan, she faces inherent risks which may include those to her work, community life and personal relationships, and I therefore ask that her privacy is respected. It is after careful consideration following the recording of this interview, I have decided her story should be released for the following reasons:
Points 1) and 2): Fukushima Medical University insists that thyroid cancer is not a disease that is deadly, and therefore residents in Fukushima do not have to worry even if they are diagnosed with thyroid cancer. However, this young woman’s story clearly demonstrates that the postoperative conditions of patients are not that simple. Post-operative patients are likely to experience various physical and emotional difficulties even after they have survived thyroid cancer.

Points 3): Doctors at Fukushima Medical University are not forming a comfortable relationship with the patients on whom they operate, which is a significant problem in terms of doctor-to-patient relationships. It is even more problematic when it is taken into account that most of the patients are young and therefore require intensive medical and emotional follow-up care.

Points 5): She is sending a strong message to young Fukushima residents that they should continue receiving regular thyroid checkups.
My hope is that her courageousness in speaking out will encourage others to do so as well.

May they never be forgotten.
May we all work together to support them.
And may this great tragedy never again be repeated.

Ian Thomas Ash


  1. 彼女は甲状腺がんの手術以降疲れやすくなった。
  2. 彼女は手術以降、精神的不安を感じることがあった。
  3. 彼女には気軽に相談できる医師がいなかった。
  4. 彼女は他の子ども達が自分と同じ甲状腺がんを患ってほしくないと思っている。
  5. 彼女は福島に暮らす若者に、病気を早期発見し適切に処置するために、県が行う甲状腺検査を受診してほしいと思っている。
  6. 彼女は将来子供を持つとき、その子の健康への影響に不安を感じている。
原発事故・甲状腺がんについて公に話すことが難しい空気になってる中、このインタビューを公開することによって、彼女の仕事や家族、友人関係など日常生活に悪影響が及ぶ危険があります。 彼女のプライバシーを尊重してくださいますようお願いします。





* 県民健康調査「甲状腺検査(先行検査)」結果概要【結果概要】

** 県民健康調査「甲状腺検査(本格検査)」実施状況

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fukushima: A Nuclear Story

Today I served as the MC for the Q&A following a screening of Fukushima: A Nuclear Story (WEBSITE) held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (event INFO).  It is always an honour to be asked by the FCCJ to serve in this capacity, particularly when the event is highlighting an issue related to Fukushima.

Fukushima: A Nuclear Story, which is narrated by Willem Dafoe and makes liberal use of Japanese-style animation, is described as "unique" at the top of the four pages of distributor-authored  notes handed to attendees as they entered the screening.  This is true both for the film and its writer/ star, Pia d'Emilia, an Italian journalist and 30-year resident of Japan.

with Pia d'Emilia during the pre-screening meeting
post-screening Q&A
A video of the Q&A has been posted to the FCCJ channel:

The highlight of the day was lunch in the FCCJ bar and a visit with friend and Chernobyl/ Fukushima researcher Tim Mousseau.  Tim is based at the University of South Carolina and was in Japan this week to continue his research in Fukushima before moving on to Chernobyl the week after next (with a trip back to America in between!).  We never know where in the world we are going to run into each other- we have bumped into each other at conferences in Japan, of course, but also in Singapore and Germany (twice!).  I highly recommend reading At Chernobyl and Fukushima, radioactivity has seriously harmed wildlife, one of Tim's latest papers (HERE).

with Dr. Timothy Mousseau
Professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

In memory of Mr. Hata (1946-2016)

Since shortly after the reunion three weeks ago of Mr. Hata and T (STORY), the son he had not seen in 30 years, Mr. Hata's health failed quickly.  Traveling between Tokyo and Mr. Hata's home in Tohoku as much as possible, I spent a lot of time with him- sometimes filming, but often just being together.  My role in Mr. Hata's life had already evolved from filmmaker to friend, and during the last week of his life, I became one of his caregivers as well, helping to bath and care for him.

On Friday, three weeks to the day of his reunion with T, Mr. Hata died.  The updates and kind messages I received from the around the world are collected in a postscript HERE.  The original story about Mr. Hata's reunion with T is HERE.

Only part of my relationship with Mr. Hata, his wife and their extended family is documented in my photo series, but it is certainly a significant part.  I plan to write down and someday share about the rest, much of which I am still processing.

In memory of Mr Hata. (1946-2016).

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mr. Hata and T, a dying father reunites with his son after thirty years

For those who saw my NHK commission "Dying at Home" in February, you will know Mr. Hata as one of the central patients I documented who has terminal cancer and is preparing to die (INFO).

Since meeting him, I have developed a close relationship with Mr. Hata and his wife, and I have spent the night with them in their home several times in the past few months.  When I arrive, they always greet me with a warm "Welcome Home!" and a home-cooked meal.  

Mr. Hata and his wife have no children, but when referring to her husband, Mrs. Hata refers to him as "father".  The first time I spent the night, she set out a pair of Mr. Hata's pajamas for me to wear, saying "I think father's pajamas will be a little big on you, but they'll do."  And there was something in the way Mr. Hata would voice his concerns about me not having job security as an "artist" and in the way he would tease me for being too skinny and not being able to drink "like an adult" that really made him seem like a dad.

During one of those visits when his wife was not around, Mr. Hata told me about a son he had not seen in over thirty years.  In that moment it occurred to me that the fatherly way Mr. Hata had towards me was at least in part because my presence reminded him of the son he had who was around my age and whom he had not seen in over three decades.

After mentioning his son to me on a couple of more occasions, I asked Mr. Hata if he was just wanting me to listen or if, perhaps, he was wanting me to try to find his son.  He said that he wanted to see his son before he died.  With his wife's blessing, I found T, Mr. Hata's son, and reunited them after 30 years. 

It was an amazing, life-changing and emotional weekend.  In real time, I documented in photographs and words the reunion of a dying father and the son he had not seen in 30 years.

The curated Tweets and reactions from around the world have been collected here:

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Another year, another anniversary

As events marking the 5th anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disaster continued, last Sunday I was honoured to be invited to participate in a symposium organized by NPO Chikurin-sha (INFO).  Other panelists included two people who had evacuated from Fukushima to the Tokyo area and two whom have not been able to evacuate.  
To represent those who had not been able to evacuate was Mrs. Sugano, who attended the conference with her husband and children.  The Sugano's are one of the main families documented in my film 'A2-B-C' (website), and it is always wonderful to see them.

With the recent stepping down (firings?!) of some major broadcast journalists (news story HERE) and the outrageous statement of Sanae Takaichi, Japan's communications minister, about the "possibility of shutting down television companies that flout rules on political impartiality" (news story HERE), on Thursday I attended the press conference "Japan's Journalists Speak Out" at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (INFO).
The journalists were resolute in sharing their thoughts and even felt comfortable enough to debate with each other about what they see as the root of the problems, including if the pressure was external (by the government) or self-inflicting (self-censorship).  Some quotes I found particularly interesting:
Shigetada Kishii: "Journalism is here to check and criticize the government.  If we can not do that, then the media is dead."

Soichiro Tahara: "The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression, and the Constitution is more important than the Broadcast Law."

Akihiro Otani: "NHK is  not present today.  The foreign media is here, but not the national broadcaster.  This demonstrates the problem here today.  This (control of the media) is something that is unthinkable in (other democracies).  This is something that should only happen in an extreme dictatorial state."
The entire press conference can be seen on the FCCJ channel, HERE in English, 日本語ここ.

Today, I spent the day in Gifu at the beautiful Entokuji Temple  where a conference was held by the Preserving Deciduous Teeth Network (PDTN). Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, this group is working to create "a nationwide network of people contributing their children's shed deciduous teeth. The collected teeth will be examined to determine the concentration of Strontium-90 deposited within them" (INFO).  I was invited to attend the conference by Dr. Ichihara, whom I had met in Berlin last month when screening the rough cut of my latest documentary about Fukushima (STORY). 
When I arrived, I was happy to also see Dr. Matsui and his wife, whom I had last met nearly two years ago when Dr. Matsui led the post-screening discussion of the final cinema showing in Tokyo of my film 'A2-B-C' after the theatrical run in the capital (STORY).  I had first met Dr. Matsui several months earlier in Germany while attending THIS IPPNW conference about Chernobyl and Fukushima.

At the conference in Gifu, two amazing films by Wladimir Tchertkoff about the disaster at Chernobyl, 'Le Sacrifice' (2003) and 'Controverses Nucléaires' (2003), were screened accompanied by a talk given by the director himself.  For anyone interested in nuclear issues, these two films are essential viewing.

Now, as April approaches, I wonder how many people are still thinking about Fukushima.  "Will it take another year, another anniversary for people to remember?" I wonder, as I head back into the edit suite to finish my new documentary about children living amid contamination...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Screenings, Effect

During the marking of the 5th anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disasters, screenings of my documentaries about the effect on children of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima were held in several cities around the world and in Japan (screenings in Canada, Germany HERE, Japan domestic screenings HERE).  Just back from screenings in Germany and Ireland (STORY), my assistant, Rei, and I traveled to Nagano Prefecture on Friday, March 11, to attend screenings of my film "In the Grey Zone" (WEBSITE) on Saturday (screening INFO).

On the way to Nagano, I received a notice about an extremely important press conference that had been suddenly scheduled about a group that had formed for families with children who have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer after the nuclear disaster; it was scheduled for the following day when we were supposed to be in Nagano for the screenings.

This issue of post-Fukushima pediatric thyroid cancer is the main theme of my new documentary, and I felt I needed to be at the press conference in Tokyo.  Arriving in Nagano on Friday evening, I held my breath as I told the screening organizers about the press conference and asked for their understanding in my desire to return to Tokyo first thing in the morning, thus missing the Saturday screenings which I had come all the way to Nagano to attend.  I explained that their desire to show my film and create a dialogue in their community about what has happened in Fukushima was directly tied to my desire to return to Tokyo and continue to document the current situation.  After a long discussion at dinner, during which the board members debated the pros and cons of suddenly cancelling my advertised appearance at the screenings (and during which my nerves did not allow me to eat), the board members decided to give me their blessing to return to Tokyo to attend the press conference and we agreed that I would take part in the post-screening discussion via video phone from outside the press conference directly after it was finished (explanation from the Nagano screening group HERE).

from the FB page of screening organizer Mr. Obata.
Back in Tokyo after leaving Nagano first thing Saturday the morning, we attended the press conference given by three organizing members of the 311 Thyroid Cancer Family Group, along with two fathers of Fukushima children who have developed thyroid cancer.  The fathers took part in the press conference in Tokyo via Skype from Fukushima, but they did not show their faces and their voices were electronically altered.  During the question period, Rei asked the fathers to talk about their need to hide their identities.  In response, one father expressed concern about discussing his child's thyroid cancer when there was not direct proof it was caused by exposure to radiation.  The other father spoke of his desire to protect his children's future and his fear of the possibility of some kind of repercussion or negative effect from speaking out.

Group founding member Dr. Ushiyama speaks
one of the fathers speaks at the press conference via Skype
My assistant, Rei, asks his question to the fathers
Journalists covering the press conference
Immediately after the press conference ended, we hurried to a Karaoke Bar near the venue, where we had rented a sound-proof Karaoke box from which I took part in the post-screening discussion of "In the Grey Zone" in Nagano via video phone.

The next day, we traveled to Fukushima, where a screening of my film 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) was being held in Sukagawa City in the beautiful (and delicious!) veggie restaurant Ginga No Hotori (screening INFO).

During the Q&A, I was delighted to be able to present a scene from my new film (the work-in-progress I screened in Germany in Ireland) featuring the decontamination activities of Fukushima fathers Mr. Suzuki and Mr. Murakami.  It was an honour to have them both in attendance at the screening and to hear from them directly about their activities.

The screening was a wonderful opportunity to see some familiar faces (including one who appeared in 'A2-B-C'!) as well as to meet some new supporters.

Photo from Suzuki Yohei