Sunday, July 24, 2011

Another Cry For Help From Minamisoma

One of the things that first made me interested in going to Minamisoma to film was the video that the mayor of Minamisoma posted to YouTube on March 26 in which his plea for help as his town was virtually abandoned by the central government was heard around the world and earned him a place in Time's most influential people list.

I had been looking forward to meeting the mayor and interviewing him. I wanted to ask him how he would use his newly found fame to help the people of his town; how he would go up against the government machine that was already putting policies in motion that would cover up and deny the severity of the threat against the people- and especially the children- of his town.

When I received the opportunity in April to interview Mayor Sakurai, I was disappointed to learn that as quickly as he had become an advocate for his people, he had seemingly reversed 180 degrees and was answering questions in the same "government-speak" we had all gotten used to from the central government.

He denied there was any threat to the children and asserted that the children could safely play outside (a portion of this interview in which he makes this claim can be seen here in the trailer for my film).

When I heard Mayor Sakurai address the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Japan last month, his new message was even more honed and clear: he was to start new programs to invigorate the local economy and try to bring the citizens who had evacuated back to the town (putting these goals, in my opinion, ahead of the safety of his town's children).

Meanwhile, as I have written here recently, the government is looking for ways to DECREASE the evacuation zone even while new HOTSPOTS are being announced and additional citizens are having to make the decision as to whether to evacuate or not.

Unable to bear this crazy situation any longer, a local city council member has taken a page out of Mayor Sakurai's book and posted a video on YouTube on July 18 asking for the government to come to its senses when making policies that affect the children of this area (Time article can be found here with the video below).

Interestingly, the council member, Koichi Ooyama, had granted me an interview back in April. At that time, however, he would not speak to me on film as a city council member. He did agree, however, to be filmed as a citizen and as a father. A well-respected local potter, he introduced himself to me by his artist name of "Sato" and that is the name under which he appears in my documentary. Apparently as the months have passed and the gravity of the situation and how it will affect the children has become more understood, "Sato-san" realized that the message that he gave during my interview needed to be given again... this time to the world as City Councilman Ooyama.

I commend him for his bravery and hope that the world is listening. He has inspired me to work even harder as I finish the editing on the documentary on a subject that he holds dear to his heart: the children of his town.


Mayor Sakurai's March 26 video message to the world can be seen here:

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