Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rotary, Radiation, and a dark joke.

Today I was invited by the Tokyo Itabashi Rotary Club to speak to the members about my experiences filming in Fukushima and to present a 20 minute selection of my work documenting the current situation of the children of Fukushima.

Speaking today at the Tokyo Itabashi Rotary Club

I edited together clips from my documentaries post-"In the Grey Zone" (WEBSITE), including scenes from six months after the nuclear meltdown (HERE), one year after the meltdown (HERE) and 15 months after the meltdown (HERE).

I ended with this scene of children playing on a radiation-contaminated playground:

When the children innocently asked me where I was from, and I answered "America", there a few chuckles in the room.  But when the children said they couldn't play on the slide because it was radioactive and then proceeded to touch it, there were outbursts of laughter in the room (!).

I was shocked.  This was the first time for me to watch this footage with a Japanese audience, and I couldn't believe that they were laughing at such a horrible situation.  

But then it occurred to me:  the little children talking about the radiation in the slide on their playground is one of the most absurd things I have witnessed in the year and half I have been filming in Fukushima.

The laughter of the people seeing this for the first time was the kind of laughter that comes out of complete shock, the kind of spontaneous laughter that erupts out of your mouth when you simply cannot belief that someone has truly just said or done something so terrible.

When I asked if there were any questions or comments at the end of the screening, an elderly man stood up and said, "Thank you for showing us a truth that they don't dare to show us on the news."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In the Pumkin Patch (Day 2 of 2)

After the rain yesterday, today was a gorgeous autumn day.  Bright and early, the film crew and I headed to the studio kitchen in the town of Nakagawa in Tochigi Prefecture, which is also the home of the farmer's markets where we procure the seasonal produce that we feature in the show, "Ian's Kitchen" (website for the show HERE).

A beautiful day in Tochigi Prefecture!

This episode featured pumpkins, and in the three dishes we used four different varieties of pumpkins, including the organic green pumpkins grown by Mr. Negishi (whom I met at his farm yesterday HERE).  We also used other autumn staples such as sweet potatoes and apples.  

A cornucopia of autumn's bounty

We always spend the morning of the shoot going through each of the recipes so that the three cameras can be set up for the right shots and so that my assistant chef, Daichi, and I can practice making each dish.

Ian and assistant chef, Diachi

After lunch, the cooking and filming begins!  There are usually lots of mistakes, like me getting one of my lines in Japanese mixed up, or Daichi and me having such a fun time chatting about differences in Japanese and Western-style cooking that something gets over-cooked and we have to start over.

Ian and Daichi do a final check before filming.

We always have a hilarious time filming and somehow each of the dishes always seems to somehow work out.  In this episode, we made:

1. Boiled Green Pumpkin with Glazed Minced Tofu, a common Japanese dish, except I made 'fake-meat' minced tofu to substitute for the usual minced chicken.

2. White Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Apple Soup, a hearty soup great for when the weather gets cold.

3. Orange and Dark Pumpkin Custard Steamed Pudding, note the crossed out bit (!).

One of the funny 'accidents' that we had today involved the steamed pudding.  The recipe is actually my grandmother's recipe for Pumpkin Custard I found in a book of family recipes that my sister curated.  I did some arranging to make it Japanese-style, including using a special unrefined mineral sugar from Okinawa (the islands in the south of Japan) instead of white sugar, using local honey rather than corn syrup, and adding soy milk in place of cow's milk.

However, when it came time to bake the custards in a hot water bath in the oven, I realized that the pan I had brought to the studio wouldn't fit in the oven!  I thought about my options: I could start over and leave out the eggs, then serve the dish raw (since the pumpkin was already cooked), but I wasn't sure that the consistency would be right.  Then suddenly, as I thinking about what else I could do, a large steaming pot used to make Chinese steamed puddings and buns caught my eye.  Without a second thought, I tossed the custards into the steaming pot and 25 minutes later (and with some script and menu description changes) we had steamed puddings!  

It was just another example of how you have to be quick on your feet and roll with the punches when you're cooking.  Now that I think about it, that's kind of how you have to be in life.

Boiled Pumpkin (top), Pumpkin Soup (left), Pumpkin Steamed Pudding (right)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In the Pumpkin Patch (Day 1 of 2)

I'm in Tochigi prefecture this week filming a new episode of my cooking show "Ian's Kitchen" (website).  The premise of the show is simple: 

  • 1.  Go to a farmer's market to get fresh and delicious locally grown seasonal produce.
  • 2.  Ask them to introduce me to the farmer who grew that episode's main ingredient.
  • 3.  Film a short documentary with the farmer in their field.
  • 4.  Cook with the fresh ingredients.
  • 5.  Enjoy the simple and delicious food!

Autumn is here, and this episode will feature pumpkins (along with apples and sweet potatoes).  Day 1 of filming always starts with a trip to the farmer's market.  We found three varieties of  pumpkins, and they were gorgeous!

At the farmer's market, I found several varieties of pumpkins.

The green one is the most common variety of pumpkin found in Japan, and the orange one is grown from foreign seeds.  I was told the white pumpkin is best for long-storage and if kept carefully wrapped in newspaper in a cool, dry place that it would keep until at least March of next year!

While at the farmer's market we met Mrs. Yamaguchi (who was there to drop off some of her lovely sweet potatoes), and she offered to introduce us to meet Mr. Negishi, the owner of a nearby organic farm.  She brought us to Mr. Negishi's pumpkin patch, and despite the rain, or perhaps even becasue of it, it was so beautiful.  Mr. Negishi proudly told me about how difficult it was to get certified as an organic farmer and about the different fruits and vegetables he grows year-round.  He even keeps honey bees!

Despite the rain, Mr. Negishi was full of smiles in his organic pumpkin patch.

Mrs. Yamaguchi then invited us to stop by her home where she kindly served us refreshments and we visited.  Moments like that remind me of how much I love being back in Tochigi (where I lived for three years when I first came to Japan).  On the way out, Mrs. Yamaguchi presented us with some of her home-grown treats.  In the photo below, I'm holding a Devil's Tongue (description here), a pumpkin and chestnuts.  Mrs. Yamaguchi is holding a "jinenjo", a long Japanese yam (description here), which is evidently extremely hard to dig up.  My producer told me that it is a delicacy typically only able to be enjoyed by the person who actually spends the hours necessary to dig it up.

Mrs. Yamaguchi presented us with some of her home-grown delicacies.

Tomorrow I'll be in the kitchen with my co-host Daiichi, and we'll be cooking with all of the lovely produce.  Stay tuned!

Friday, October 19, 2012

"Don't abandon the children of Fukushima" (part 5 of 5)

Today was my last day in Fuskushima for this trip, and I had asked the Sugano family if I could film their three children (son Koutarou, 9, daughter Kae, 5, and youngest son Shinjirou, 4) getting ready for school. 

Koutarou, who leaves for school the earliest, was up before six.  He had breakfast and got dressed in his school uniform, which includes a radiation monitor on a blue lanyard around his neck.  While his younger brother and sister still slept, Koutarou got in a few more minutes of morning cartoons before leaving for school.

Koutarou, wearing a radiation monitor on a blue lanyard, watches cartoons before school.

Kae  and Shinjirou sleep while their brother gets ready for school.
A little after seven, Koutarou put on a protective face mask and headed to Oguni Elementary School in Date City (the elementary school with the radioactive hotspot that I wrote about yesterday).

Koutarou goes to school wearing a radiation monitor and a face mask.
After Koutarou left for school, Kae, 5, and Shinjirou, 4, woke up and immediately starting playing computer games.  Earlier in the week I had wondered why so many of the children I met seemed to be obsessively playing video games.  And then it dawned on me: the children are not allowed to play outside.

Kae and Shinjirou play a computer game before getting ready for school.
Kae and Shinjirou had breakfast and got dressed in their matching school uniforms, which also include a radiation monitor on a blue lanyard.  The children are too small to wear the radiation monitors around their necks so they are attached to their school back backs.  Kae and Shinjirou then headed out to the bus that takes them to their nursery school, which is also in the contaminated area of Oguni in Date City, Fukushima.

Kae and Shinjirou get ready to board the bus that takes them to nursery school.

Kae and Shinjrou, too small to wear the radiation monitors around their necks, have them attached to their backpacks.
In the afternoon, I visited the home of Mr. and Mrs. Shibuya.  They were living with their two children, son Aibu, 12, and daughter Mutsuki, 9, in the Watari district of Fukushima City when the nuclear power plant melted down last year.  They were able to evacuate their children to Mrs. Shibuya's parents' house, where the radiation level is slightly lower than where they were living in Watari, although the home is still within the limits of the city of Fukushima.

Mr. Shibuya proudly showed me a photo of his family at an anti-nuclear demonstration in Tokyo last year.  They are holding a banner his daughter, Mutsuki, drew depicting little children wearing face-masks, and that reads: "Don't abandon the children of Fukushima!".  The banner now hangs in the family's home.

Mutsuki, 9, drew this banner that read: "Don't abandon the children of Fukushima!"

I asked Mr. and Mrs. Shibuya if the children had undergone testing for both internal radiation exposure and thyroid abnormalities.  Mrs. Shibuya's eyes welled up with tears as Mr. Shibuya showed me the test results from the children's thyroid exams.  Both Aibu and Mutsuki have been diagnosed with abnormal thyroid cysts.

Aibu and Mutsuki are just two of the 43% of children in Fukushima that have been found to have abnormal thyroid cysts.  What will this mean for Aibu, Mutsuki, and the rest of the children of Fukushima? 


Thursday, October 18, 2012

The myth of 'decontamination' (pat 4 of 5)

The 'decontamination' effort in Fukushima continues despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, among which are:

1.  After a specific property (or school) is 'decontaminated', it is nearly impossible to prevent it from becoming re-contaminated with radiation from neighboring properties that have yet to be 'decontaminated' when it rains or when the wind blows.

2.  Short of actually cutting down all the forests and shaving the topsoil (both large sources of radiation) off the surface of the mountains in the entire contaminated area, true 'decontamination' will be impossible.

3.  Many companies in charge of 'decontamination' are simply small, local construction companies that have no experience or expertise in 'decontamination' and offer employees nearly no specialized training and even less personal protection.

4.  During 'decontamination', which often takes place around schools and homes where children live, the actual act of cutting down trees and removing contaminated dirt in and of itself causes radiation to become airborne once again and causes danger to people, and especially to children, breathing in the contaminated dust.

5.  'Decontamination' is viewed by many citizens of Fukushima as a way for the government to make residents "feel safe", therefore terminating the discussion of evacuation and, more importantly, the associated cost to the government of providing financial compensation to those affected.
A worker fills sacks with contaminated dirt during the 'decontamination' of a home in Date City, Fukushima.

Today I met with Date City council member Mr. Yoshiaki Kanno to discuss the concerns of the citizens living in the area.  We met on the property of one of his constituents whose home is currently undergoing 'decontamination'.  He told me that like the people he represents, he too, thinks 'decontamination' is impossible, and that the people should at least be given the option to evacuate and receive compensation.  Mr. Kanno did make it clear that this needed to be an "option" as there are people, including some elderly, who have expressed their desire to remain in their homes and on their ancestral land.

Mr. Yoshiaki Kanno, a Date City council member, visits the decontamination site of one of his constituents.

I spoke with one of the 'decontamination' workers and asked him where all the radioactive dirt was being taken.  He told me that the government hadn't been able to figure that out yet, so individual municipalities were required to find local places to "temporarily" collect the sacks of contaminated soil until a long-term solution could be found.  I asked him how long "temporarily" meant, and he said his guess would be "somewhere around 10 years".  The mountains of bags containing contaminated soil are exposed to the air and are, in some cases, just hundreds of meters away from homes where children are currently living.

A "temporary" holding site for sacks containing radioactive soil in Date City, Fukushima.

Later in the day, I again met with Mrs. Sugano, the mother of 9-year-old Koutarou and his two younger siblings.  She was worried about the levels of the radiation around the elementary school Koutarou attends.  The school is planning to re-start outdoor athletic activities including PE, which takes place three times a week.  Although the school administration assured Mrs. Sugano that the school building and grounds have been 'decontaminated' and that there is nothing to worry about, she decided to check the radiation levels of the surrounding property.

Mrs. Sugano measures the radiation level outside Oguni Elementary School in Date City, Fukushima.

The first place Mrs. Sugano measured was in the field just beyond the school's fence.  The area is literally next to the school pool, which the children had used all summer and which the parents had been assured was "decontaminated and safe".

Mrs. Sugano measures the radiation in the field next to the elementary school her son attends (seen in the background).

The area turned out to be a radioactive hotspot that measured 38.54 microsieverts!  I immediately felt nauseous and thought I would be sick, though not from any physical effect from the radiation; although extremely high, this level would not bring about acute radiation sickness but rather long-term illness (such as cancer) if exposure was extended.  No, it was the emotional effect of the radiation; I felt sick standing in a radiation hotspot next to a school that had the windows open, where the contaminated air was pouring in and the sound of laughing children was pouring out.

Next to the elementary school where Mrs. Kanno's son attends is a radioactive hotspot that measures 38.54 microsieverts.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Playing with numbers (part 3 of 5)

I started out the day in the Watari district of Fukushima City where I met Mrs. Gotoh, the worried mother of seven-year-old daughter, Satomi.  Mrs. Gotoh's husband works for the prefectural government, and after the nuclear meltdown he was needed more than ever; for him, evacuation was not an option.  Mrs. Gotoh's choice: to evacuate with Satomi and be separated indefinitely from her husband or keep her family together and remain in Fukushima.  She made the difficult choice to remain.

Mrs. Gotoh showed me the neighbourhood playground where her daughter, Satomi, sometimes plays.  

Children play at a playground in the Watari district of Fukushima City

There were many children, accompanied by their mothers, climbing the equipment and playing in the sand.  I asked one of the mothers if she was concerned about the radiation level in the playground, and she told me that she was not because the playground had been "decontaminated".  When I probed a little further, she said that she wants to believe the levels of radiation the government is releasing are accurate.  She then pointed to a sign directly above where two little girls, one of them her daughter, were playing:

Two little girls play under a sign stating the average radiation level for the playground.

The sign displayed the "average radiation level" in the playground.  The mother explained that every month "the people in charge" check the radiation levels "in different places" in the playground and that the figures are added together and the posted radiation level represents "the average level of radiation."

While I was processing this idea of an "average level of radiation", my phone rang and it was Mr. Kanno from the NPO 'Save Watari Kids' (Japanese website HERE).  He had seen my Tweet saying that I would be in the Watari area, and he was calling to ask if I wanted to meet. 

My Tweet saying that I will be filming in the Watari district of Fukushima City.

Within ten minutes we had met, and I asked Mr. Kanno what he thought about the monitoring posts at the playgrounds, and indeed the monitoring posts all over the city.  He said that the posts are measuring the radiation level at 1 meter above the ground, which renders them virtually useless.  He brought me to a park that is currently undergoing "decontamination" and showed me what he meant.

A radiation monitoring station in a park that is undergoing radioactive decontamination.

He pointed to the "+" sign on the side of the monitoring station.  He told me that the mark, one meter from the ground, is where the radiation is being measured.  He explained that radiation collects on the ground and in dirt, in trees and grasses, on houses and gutters, but it doesn't collect in the air so the levels on the ground itself are potentially much higher.  He continued by explaining that children are smaller than adults and are more susceptible to the effects of radiation, so it makes more sense to measure the radiation at a lower height. 

A closeup of the radiation monitoring station showing the "+" sign

If children are more likely to play in, touch, fall face first in, and to eat dirt, then why aren't the radiation levels being measured at that height?  I asked Mr. Kanno why the government doesn't do the measurements closer to the ground, and he replied, "If they told the truth about the radiation levels, they would have to evacuate the entire Watari area.  Without Watari, the economy of the city of Fukushima would collapse, and without the city of Fukushima, the entire economy of the prefecture of Fukushima would collapse.  The people of this city are being sacrificed for the greater good of the prefecture, of the country." 

In the evening, I met with Ms. Sachiko Sato head of the NPO 'Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation" (English website HERE).  She shared with me that she also felt the placement of the radiation monitoring posts only in areas that have been recently "decontaminated" and in places at a greater height from the ground was done intentionally in order to coverup the true radiation level. And she asserted that this act by the government is criminal.

Ms. Sachiko Sato, head of 'Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation'

What Ms. Sato told me next was so utterly shocking that my jaw dropped in disbelief.  However, it is something so sensitive that I feel I need help in doing the official translation before I release the contents of the interview.  If what Ms. Sato said is true, and if I understood her correctly, then there is much more trouble ahead.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Decontamination, continued (part 2 of 5)

At the Sugano family home, the decontamination continues.  The local government has hired private companies to decontaminate the homes they have deemed radioactive hotspots and have evacuated.  After identifying the areas of high radiation, the teams remove the topsoil, cut down trees and clear shrubs and leaves.

Decontamination procedures continue at the Sugano family home

Speaking with Mr. Sugano, it was shocking to learn that the company tasked with decontaminating his home has no expertise in the field of radioactive decontamination.  The company is simply a small construction company that "knows how to move dirt" and many of the people working for them are part-time contract workers who have received no special training.

Among the men working there was a 26 year old young man from Hokkaido (in the north of Japan).  After having studied abroad in Australia, he was fluent in English, but said he took on this job because, like so many young people, he was having trouble finding work.  At the Sugano home, he was put in charge of cleaning gutters and roof tops, which are some of the most contaminated areas due to the way that rain water collects.

One of the awnings at the Sugano family home measures 5.4 microsieverts

When I asked him if he was worried about his health, he told me he wouldn't allow himself to think about the risk or else he wouldn't be able to do the work.  He did, though, share with me that because of his level of radiation exposure, he is worried about fathering children in the future.

An untrained 26 year old young man cleans contaminated rain gutters and roofs

After living in this contaminated house for three months after the nuclear meltdown, the Sugano children, aged 9, 5 and 4 were eventually evacuated in June of last year.  But their grandmother has been left behind to care for the property and the family pets, as animals could not be taken along when the children were evacuated.  Not only did the children lose their home and their pets, but their family has been split apart, too.

The family dog was outside last year after the meltdown.  When her fur was measured, it was found to have 5 microsieverts of radiation/ hour. 

After the meltdown, the Sugano family dog's fur measured 5 microsieverts

This week, the decontamination at the Sugano house continues.  But after witnessing the incompetent techniques used by the untrained construction company, Mr and Mrs, Sugano doubt if they'll ever be able to return there with their children.  Mrs. Sugano is quick to point out that the company started by removing contaminated dirt from around the house and then power-washing the roof, thereby re-contaminating the ground they had just cleaned.  She added, "It's common sense: when you take a shower, you start by shampooing your head.  How could they get it this wrong?"

With the completion of decontamination only days away, radiation levels at one of the hotspots near the house remained at 15.2 microsieverts.  Looking at the meter, Mrs. Sugano just shook her head and said, "The word 'decontamination' is meaningless".

Decontamination is nearly finished, but at least one hot spot on the Sugano family property remains at 15.2 microsieverts


Monday, October 15, 2012

Decontamination (part 1 of 5)

I am filming all this week in Fukushima Prefecture, and today I began in the city of Date, which lies about 50 kilometers to the west of the damaged nuclear power plant.  After the meltdown, the wind blew the radiation westward, and so the contamination spread far beyond the 20 kilometer evacuation zone initially established by the government.

At the Sugano family home in the city of Date, the decontamination has only just began, although it has already been a year and a half since the meltdown.

Decontamination begins at the Sugano Family home.

After the meltdown, the family sensed they were in danger so they packed all their bags and prepared to leave at a moment's notice.  But the government never evacuated the city of Date.  

Eventually, two months after the meltdown, the entire village of Iitate, which lies next to Date, was evacuated when the government finally admitted that the radiation had spread further than initially announced.

(My documentary about the evacuation of the entire village of Iitate, which lies next to the city of Date, is here:)

In the city of Date, the Sugano family and their three children, aged 9, 5 and 4, remained in their home for three months waiting to be evacuated.  When their property was finally tested, one of the hotspots was found to be 70 microsieverts (!), seen on the map below at line 14 marked HS 3:

Hotspot #3 on line 14 is 70 microsieverts

The city of Date tested the homes of all its residents.  When hotspots were found, it was decided not to evacuate the entire city of Date, but rather to make a decision on a house by house basis.  In other words, a family would only receive assistance to evacuate if their house was deemed a hotspot.  Neighborhoods were torn apart, with some families being evacuated and some homes deemed "safe".  Anyone unlucky enough to have a home deemed "safe" was now faced with having to live literally next door to an evacuated home deemed a hotspot.

Even before being evacuated, the Sugano children were not allowed to play outside.

The Sugano children were eventually evacuated in June of last year,  after living for more than three months in their contaminated home.  But in order to receive support from the city of Date, they were required to remain living within the city of Date.  Therefore, the children have been evacuated to a place just 10 kilometers from where their contaminated home lies.  And everyday the city of Date transports the children from where they have been evacuated to, back to the school they had been attending.  Although the school itself has been decontaminated, it is in an area that contains radiation hotspots, and so the children still must wear face masks and radiation monitors everyday on their way to school.

The Sugano family's 9 year old son wears a face mask and radiation monitor to school.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Being continued...

I'm writing this on the bullet train, speeding toward the city of Fukushima; leaving the hustle and bustle of Tokyo behind, heading for the uncertainty that remains the entire prefecture of Fukushima.  

When I show "In the Grey Zone" (website here) in festivals, so many people come up to me after and say: "Is that still going on?  I thought everything was back to normal.  We never hear about it in the news."

Yes, sadly, "it" is still going on.  But what is "it"?

This is the first time I will visit the city of Fukushima, though I have been to the prefecture of Fukushima many times.  Most of the filming I have been been doing has been centered on the people of the city of Minamisoma, including my most recent documentary "In Containment":

Although the city of Fukushima lies further away from the damaged nuclear power plant than the city of Minamisoma, because of wind direction, there are some areas in the city of Fukushima that actually have higher levels of radiation than parts of Minamisoma.

I've already spoken with several of the mothers that I will meet this week on the phone.  One of them shared with me that ALL three of her children were tested and shown to have abnormal cysts on their thyroids.  The doctor giving her the government-sponsored test results told her not to worry about it and that they would do a follow up test in two years.

This profile of my recent documentary work, published on the Freedom in Harmony blog on October 10 (here), ends with this staggering statistic regarding the results of the government-sponsored testing of the children of Fukushima:

The first round of testing indicated that 35% of children (38,114 children) had incidents of thyroid cyst.  Now, it is reported to be 43%.

What do these cysts mean?  Are they benign, or will they be an indication of cancer in the children of Fukushima?  The government doctors want us to wait two years for answers.  I'm on my way there tonight.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

RotterDAMN, Holland

The European Premier of my doc "In the Grey Zone" (website) was held tonight at the Camera Japan Festival (website) in Rotterdam, Holland.  I was scheduled to be there for the screening and the Q & A to follow, but unfortunately due to extenuating circumstances I was unable to attend.  


On so many levels I was disappointed that I couldn't attend the screening.  This was the first of my documentaries to be programmed as a Japanese film.  Although I am American, "In the Grey Zone" is a Japanese-language film made with Japanese money, and to be recognized as the director of Japanese film (and to be programmed with such AMAZING Japanese films like these) is such an honour.

I also really wanted to be there because my films are like my children, and sending them off to a festival without me there feels like sending my kid off to school for the first time.  Will she make it to class on time (= will the master copy make it to the cinema)?  What if nobody sits with her at lunch (= what if nobody comes to the screening)?  What if the other kids are mean to her (= what if the critics hate it)?

I also didn't want to disappoint the the festival organizers and the audience.  For festivals, having a director present for a post-screening discussion can be a big draw for audiences.  When I attend a festival, I will usually choose a screening where the director is in attendance because the opportunity to hear them speak and to ask them questions isn't something you usually have the chance to do.

But this story has a happy ending (quite unlike most of my films).  Through the power of the internet (and the great technicians in Rotterdam) I was able to take part in the Q & A  following the screening via Skype from my Tokyo studio!

***** UPDATE *****

Click HERE to read what wrote about "In the Grey Zone" when it was chosen as one of the Top Picks of Camera Japan!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Too honoured x 2

This week I began editing my new documentary about what is currently happening to the children living in Fukushima.  This new film contextualizes what happens in my documentary "In the Grey Zone" (website), showing what happened in the days just after the nuclear meltdown and continues right up to the present.  "In the Grey Zone" documents the confusion about whether the children in Fukushima should have been returning to Fukushima in the weeks after the meltdown, and the new film answers the questions that viewers of "In the Grey Zone" always have: "What happened next?" and "What is happening now?"

And as if to ensure that I don't procrastinate getting done the task at hand (something I am too oft prone to do) I received two massive boosts of encouragement this week:

The first was a profile of my work called "Life on the Line" (here) written by award-winning author Shawn Small (website) and published on his blog "Shawn Small Stories" on October 3rd.  (NOTE:  I met Shawn last month at Global Peace Film Festival (website) in Orlando, Florida and wrote about his amazing film "Ru: Water is Life" on this blog here and here.)

I am left speechless by Shawn's words, and when I read them I am left wondering, "Who on earth is he writing about?" because I certainly don't feel I am deserved of these words.

The second boost of encouragement came when the Rhode Island International Film Festival, where the World Premier of "In the Grey Zone" was held in August (here), published the Audience Choice awards.  In addition to the "Filmmaker of the Future Award" that I received back in August (here), "In the Grey Zone" (published by the Japanese title "Gurei Zoun No Naka") was honoured with the First Prize for Best Documentary!  (The full list of awards can be found here.)

Now feeling even more encouraged and supported, I am going to buckle down and go back to into the edit suite...

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Facebook: an Amanda-Panda-Pandora's Box

After YEARS of refusing to go over to the dark side of Facebook, my friendly neighbourhood Facebook-pushers (AKA my sister Amanda and her husband Ernest) have finally worn me down.  

"Try it just once.  You'll love it."  Are they pushing social media or drugs?

So now that I've tried it, I'm left asking myself how I will find the time to even figure out how to use Facebook, let alone create content for it.  And will I be able to maintain a separation between my personal and professional lives (Ian Thomas Ash on Facebook here, DocumentingIan on Facebook here), something that I have striven to do ever since I first established a blog (here), a website (here), a YouTube channel (here) and a twitter handle (here)?

Ian Thomas Ash on Facebook

DocumentingIan on Facebook

Have I just damned myself to a purgatory in which no stone shall be left unturned in the pursuit of the very private and intimate, where there are no longer any boundaries and I no longer have any privacy?

Anyway, look at my crazy Japanese photo booth pic with my friends:

"PURIN KURA" with friends in Tokyo

Damn.  I can already tell this is a battle I'm going to lose.