Tuesday, May 31, 2011


While editing the footage of interviews with politicians, I have found myself asking:

What is the biggest difference between them and me?

Is it that I believe that the children living near the damaged nuclear power plant are in potential danger and should be evacuated while the politicians are saying there is no health risk to the children?

No. It is this:

I hope I am wrong. The politicians, however, hope they are right.

Monday, May 30, 2011

In the Radiation Zone: The Children of Minamisoma City, Part 4

I have just posted the last part of "In the Radiation Zone: the Children of Minamisoma", the behind-the-scenes footage of my new feature documentary.

I will let it speak for itself:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rebuilding Japan: film project for Discovery

A friend of mine just sent me the link for this press release (the Japanese version is linked to the photo on the left. The English version is here).

In short, Discovery Channel here in Japan is taking applications for up to six filmmakers to make 30 minute documentaries with the theme of "re-building Japan".

I have lots of ideas for films, but I am not sure if any of the themes qualify as "re-building".

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Like a hot apple pie

I have finished part 4 of the behind-the-scenes look at the feature documentary we filmed about the children of Minamisoma. I have decided not to show what happened to the children when they returned to school (I am saving that for the film).

Instead, I made a trailer for the film. In it, there are clips from interviews with the mayor of Minamisoma, the superintendent of schools, medical doctors treating patients in Minamisoma, and a government adviser on radiation health-risk.

Although it is finished, I am having to prevent myself from uploading it just yet. It is like when you take a pie from the oven and it looks so delicious that you want to have a bite right then, but you know that this could result in burning your tongue.

Because some of the things that are said by people (including politicians) are quite shocking (at least to me), I want to be sure that the English subtitles are as accurate as possible. I don't want to leave room for being accused of taking things out of context, so I have a colleague coming over today to check and re-check my work.

I am all for hot apple pie, but rather than risk being burned I am going to serve this one up after I let it cool off a bit. Just a bit.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Radiation Discrimination

Before I could speak Japanese, I used to think that the Japanese people were more respectful, more polite than Westerners. My mother used to say "She wouldn't say sh*t even if her mouth was full of it" to describe someone who was really high class. This is how I used to feel about Japanese people.

However, as I began to learn more Japanese, I learned something else as well: Japanese people are just the same as the rest of us.

Doing research and filming for my documentary on the children of Minamisoma, I have come across several shocking examples of discrimination of Japanese people by Japanese people. I will say that I just hope these are isolated examples... yet with the frequency people shared them with me, I fear that this may be more widespread than I would want to believe.

Accurate information regarding radiation contamination needs to be made available: how it can and cannot occur. It is not a communicable disease that is airborne and can be 'caught' person to person. It is from a lack of information that rumours run rampant and things like this begin occurring:
1. An elderly man approached me when I was up north because my car had Tokyo plates. He told me that when he had visited Chiba prefecture (near Tokyo) the week before that his car had been 'keyed'. The words "GO HOME" were etched into the side of his car, presumably because his plates were from Fukushima Prefecture (the home of the damaged nuclear power plant). There have been many reports in the news here of the people of Fukushima facing discrimination from people who fear radiation contamination.

2. A father in Minamisoma who evacuated his wife and children told me that one of his children faced discrimination in his new school. The children called his son names, including "bacteria".

3. The rice farmers have not been able to grow rice this year due to the dangerous levels of radiation. This has a knock-down effect on the agricultural supplies businesses and rice sellers. Even though the rice from last year's crop has been in storage and is perfectly safe to eat, many people won't buy it. When I have mentioned that I bought the rice to try to help support the shop owners, I have had people in Tokyo tell me they would never eat it because it is "dirty".

4. A young, unmarried woman shared with me that she was blatantly told to change her family registry. She was told that no man would ever accept her as his wife if she was registered as being from Fukushima Prefecture, let alone from Minamisoma City.
How can the people of such a small island nation turn against their own citizens in such an unjustified and unwarranted way? It just makes me question even more:

Under all the social structures put upon us, are we humans just basically evil?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

In the Radiation Zone: The Children of Minamisoma City, Part 3

This is Part 3 of the behind-the-scenes look at our new feature documentary about the children living in the zone 20-30 km from the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Due to the orders to stay indoors because of the radiation, the children spend their days inside making origami cranes. A boy brings his irradiated cat to the testing site. Prior to the classes beginning again, I interview the children's elementary school principal about whether he thinks it is safe for the children to attend the school. Radiation-laced rain welcomes the children back to classes.

Editing this together into one cohesive story just makes thinking about these children even harder for me. When we were there filming, our heads were spinning and we didn't really have time to process everything what was happening. When the story is condensed into what really matters, it becomes painfully clear:

Maybe no one can say for certain if these children are in danger or not, but if so, why should the chance be taken with their lives?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Red Cross for Japan Disaster Relief fundraiser

Jacqueline Church, a Boston-based writer, has organized a fundraiser on her website.

During this round, each $20 donation gives a chance to win a Japanese cookbook signed by the author.

For more details, please visit Jacqueline's website.

All proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross for Japan Disaster Relief.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Discovery News: guest blog #6

I feel so fortunate to have a continuing relationship with Discovery News and am honoured that they have just published my sixth guest blog.

In it, I give some of the background for Part 2 of the behind-the-scenes look at the documentary we filmed about the children of Minamisoma City who are being exposed to much higher than normal radiation levels.

It is so wonderful to know that there are still news organizations out there like Discovery News that are helping to keep alive the story of the continuing nuclear situation here in Japan.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The story of Iitate Village

On our way to the city of Minamisoma, we passed through the village of Iitate. In part one of the behind-the-scenes footage from that trip I mentioned that Iitate was being evacuated because of the extremely high radiation levels.

They have not been allowed to plant rice or grow vegetables this year. They have been told to kill their cows as they cannot be sold due to radiation exposure. The ENTIRE village is being evacuated and will be abandoned. Not only will the people lose their land, their houses, and their way of life, but they will be losing their sense of community as well.

David McNeill, a foreign correspondent that I know from the Press Club here in Japan, wrote a really beautiful portrait of one of the families being affected. You can read that, here.

I have decided to travel to the village of Iitate tomorrow to film and to try to help tell this tragic story.

Harmony Addict

I am really new to YouTube and just created my DocumentingIan channel two months ago. I am still learning the ins and outs, dos and don'ts and exactly what is possible.

Today I received a message from a fellow YouTuber named harmonyaddict. She used footage from two of the documentary pieces I filmed in Ishinomaki (this one and this one) in her music video. She wrote to me to say that she had felt like she could better comprehend the situation through my work.

Admittedly, I didn't even know that it was possible to download and re-edit something that is on YouTube (that shows you how old school I am!), and I was a little surprised at first. But like harmonyaddict, I am trying to get the message out to as many people as possible that Japan still needs the world's help and that it is going to take years to try to get back to some kind of normalcy in the most devastated areas.

I am really grateful to harmonyaddict for using her amazing voice to help keep Japan in the spotlight, and I am really honoured to have my work used to help inspire people.

Please check out harmonyaddict's video of "Talking to the Moon".

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Two months later, what is the forest?

I have the news on in the background as I am editing the footage from my recent to trip to Minamisoma City, one of the many places so badly affected not only by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami but also the invisible threat of the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Can it really be that two months have passed?

I have been so absorbed in the work I am doing to try to tell another piece of this story, to try to keep the story alive in the minds of people who are far away that this anniversary nearly slipped by without me noticing.

"Was it a case of not seeing the forest for the trees?" I ask myself. But then I quickly answer, "No, the two month anniversary was not a forest I could not see. It was just one of the trees among so many others."

"What is the forest, then?"

Each of the people I have met, the problems I have witnessed, the brokenness I have seen... each of these is a tree. The forest that they form is there, I know, but I am still unable to see it.

Perhaps it is true that I can not see the forest for the trees; for I am one of the trees and cannot yet see the forest in which I am.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

In the Radiation Zone: The Children of Minamisoma City, Part 1

I have just returned from two weeks in the city of Minamisoma.

Minamisoma is in Fukushima Prefecture, the home of the damaged nuclear power plant. Not only was it devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but it is still dealing with the continued threat of radiation contamination.

When so many other foreigners have fled Japan and the radiation threat, my good friend/ cameraman/ producer Colin O'Neill flew over from the UK last month. We had decided to make a feature documentary about something to do with the events of March 11, but we still hadn't decided what our focus would be.

We initially decided that we would split our two week filming block between two locations. The first would be the city of Minamisoma.

What drew us to Minamisoma was the story of the children of the town and how they would be affected by the exposure to such abnormally high levels of radiation. Once we got there, we were so blown away by what we uncovered that we decided to abandon our original plan and to spend the entire two weeks there.

As I edit what will be our next feature documentary, I will be posting some behind the scenes footage and video diaries that will show what it was like to be staying in the zone, 20-30 km from the damaged nuclear power plant.

Here's part 1: