Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thanks be

On this, my 39th birthday, I reflect on the incredible year this has been and am so very grateful for the help and encouragement of so many family members, friends and supporters.

For many years now, I have not wanted to celebrate my birthday, although I had not been able to articulate why that is until last year:
Today, I spent the day exactly how I had always wanted to: doing something that wasn't about me in a place where no one knew it was birthday.

As I put my thoughts about today into the words I wrote above, it clarified for me my feelings about birthdays: we have been put on this earth to do for others, and we are called to celebrate the gift of life that we have been given not by celebrating our own birth and receiving physical 'presents', but by celebrating that mystical exchange of grace that occurs when we use our 'presence', the life that we have been given, to do for others. (Full story "The more they take away, what remains only grows stronger" HERE).

As I did last December in my "2013 Year in Review" (HERE), I would like to reflect on some of the life-changing experiences I have had in 2014 and for which I am so very grateful.

January 2014
I traveled to India for the first time where 'A2-B-C' (website ENGLISH/ 日本語) was screened in the CMS Vatavaran Environment and Wildlife Film Festival in New Delhi, and where I wrote THIS story about the street children who were separated from the outdoor screening venue by a single sheet of cloth.
February 2014
After screening 'A2-B-C' in Texas' Thin Line Festival (STORY), I flew to Taiwan for a three-city screening tour.  One of the highlights was the amazing outdoor screening in Taipei's Liberty Square (PHOTOS).

March 2014
One of the busiest months for travel that I have had, March began with my participation in the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)-organized congress "The Effects of Nuclear Disasters on the Natural Environment and Human Beings" in Germany (STORY), followed by an intense 48 hours of travel to Switzerland and back (STORY).  Marking the 3rd anniversary of the March 11 disaster back home in Japan (HERE), an article I wrote about the newly passed Secrecy Law was published to coincide with the anniversary (ARTICLE).  I also wrote an entry called How to "do" a film and World Tour (HERE) about how I had been able to continue my work in the face of so many challenges.  The month ended with a trip to the US for screenings of 'A2-B-C' in NYC and Bryn Mawr, as well as a visit with family (STORY). 

April 2014
In April, things started gearing up for the nation-wide release of 'A2-B-C' in Japan beginning with a preview screening for mass media followed by a Q&A led by Radio DJ and broadcaster Peter Barakan (STORY).
May 2014
In May, I traveled to Fukushima and posted THIS Video Message for Children's Day.  I sat for a series of interviews (HERE) ahead of the theatrical release of 'A2-B-C', and the film opened to a sell-out crowd (STORY).  After reflecting on this incredible journey in an entry called "The Very Beginning" the day after the opening (HERE), I flew to Edmonton, Canada, for the Global Visions Film Festival where two of my films were screened (STORY).  This was followed by a trip to Brazil, my first time in South America (STORY), where 'A2-B-C' was awarded THIS special recognition and where I met Bonkohara Kuniko, Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor and director of the Association of Hibakusha in Brasil (STORY).  On the way home to Japan, I made a stop-over in  I the US where I gave THIS talk outside Washington, DC.

June 2014
Arriving home in Japan, I went straight from the airport in Tokyo to the cinema where 'A2-B-C' was screening and where I was told that the initial three-week run for the film had been extended for an additional three weeks (STORY).  In preparation for the nation-wide release, I took part in THIS press junket; meanwhile, the 25th screening of 'A2-B-C' in an international film festival was held in Poland (STORY).  I then took part in the symposium "Deciphering Japan" at Tokyo University of the Arts (HERE) and the film and I were attacked in THIS online article.  The theatrical release of 'A2-B-C' in Tokyo ended with a sell-out crowd and with the film at #1 on the Cinema Today access ranking list (STORY).  June ended with screenings in Nagoya and Hiroshima (STORY), my participation in the academic conference Cultural Typhoon (INFO), and putting the finishing touches on my new film, '-1287' (INFO).

July 2014
Beginning with a screening at Tsukuba University (STORY),  private screenings of 'A2-B-C' continued (HERE), the domestic tour continued in Osaka and Kyoto (STORY), and I was invited to speak at the University of Kobe (STORY).  Private screenings were held in Kamakura (STORY) and the picturesque city of Matsumoto (PHOTOS), and the domestic tour continued in Kobe (STORY).

August 2014
My short film "Even the birds need to be loved" was screened publicly for the first time in New York (STORY), and I marked Hiroshima Day (August 6) at a screening of 'A2-B-C' in Tokyo (STORY).  Having finished my new film '-1287', I began preparing for the Asian Premier of that film (HERE), as well as the continuing screenings of 'A2-B-C' (which I wrote about HERE in an entry called "Snorting Doc").  Meanwhile, I was asked to moderate for the first time a press conference at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Japan (STORY).

September 2014
The World Premier of '-1287' was announced (STORY), and the domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' continued in Nagano, after which I had the adventure described in "Stick 'em up! Your money or your... freedom" (HERE).  At a screening in Oita, I was heard screaming "Fukushima is NOT a zoo!  And nuclear refugees are NOT animals.  They are people!” (detailed HERE).  The next day, apparently still in a confrontational mood, I could be heard hissing " If something terrible happens to them as a result of having spoken out, it will not be because of this film!  It will be because of people who think like you, Doctor," at another screening (story HERE).  At the end of the month, I met my dad in the UK for a little R&R and to visit family friends ahead of the UK premier of '-1287' (STORY and PHOTOS HERE).

October 2014
The World Premier of '-1287' took place in London's Raindance (photos HERE), and "Japan's Foreign Filmmakers: 'Weastern Cinema'', an article I wrote for the festival catalogue, was published (story  HERE, full article HERE).  Ahead of the Asian Premier of '-1287', articles about my work were published (HERE), and I made a quick trip to Singapore (just 36 hours!) to take part in the workshop “Exposure and Effect: Measuring safety, environment and life in Asia” (STORY).  The Asian Premier of '-1287' was held in the Taiwan International Documentary Festival at which really personal questions were asked at the first post-screening discussion (HERE) and where the second post-screening discussion lasted longer than the film (HERE)!  The month ended back in Japan with screenings of 'A2-B-C' in Chigasaki and Wakayama, along with some devastating news that really put things into perspective for me (STORY).

November 2014
The month began with screenings of 'A2-B-C' in Kyushu where I met a real live Samurai (!) (STORY), and I officially started my new job at the University of Tokyo (STORY).  I traveled to the US for screenings of two of my films in the Lake Champlain International Film Festival where I was honoured to receive THIS award.  This was followed by a screening of 'A2-B-C' at McGill University in Montreal, screenings back in Japan in Akiruno and Seto, and my continuing work at the university (STORY).

December 2014
Jordan.  In my first trip to the Middle East, I felt called to visit Petra, where I had an amazing experience (links to the 4-part story are HERE), followed by a screening of 'A2-B-C' in Amman (HERE).  Back in Japan, the film screened in Mie to a packed house after this strange coincidence on the train (STORY).


My last trip abroad this year has brought me to the US to be with family for the holidays. 

Today as I receive so many birthday wishes, I am grateful for the thoughts and prayers.  And yet I find that I continue to be uncomfortable with the marking of my birthday.  As a child grows up, there is a celebration of that new life, balanced with prayers for the child's continued health.  Yet now, as an adult, I struggle with receiving congratulations simply for having been born.  Rather, I believe, it is I who should convey this greeting, this thanks, this praise: thanks be to my parents who gave birth to me and raised me; thanks be to the family members and friends who give me strength; thanks be to the supporters who help make possible my continuing work, and thanks be to God.

Celebrating my 1st birthday with my sister, Amanda.


Pat Bennett said...

Ian, a birthday anniversary is a blessing, consider the alternative. You wouldn't be here to contribute to this world and make it a better place. Some of us contribute more than others and you are at the top of my list of humans that I personally KNOW and admire. Thank you for being you!

Pat Bennett
Tucson, AZ/Silver City, NM

Ian Thomas Ash said...


Thank you so much for your kind words of support!

Much Peace to you and your family in this New Year,