Today I did something I have never done, something I said I would never do: I showed the rough cut of my latest documentary ("A2" website HERE) to the mothers who appear in the film.
Of course I always show the finished film to the people appear who appear in my documentaries, but I never show it to them when it is still a work-in-progress. I feel that showing someone the rough cut of a film implies that you are open to suggestions, feedback, criticism; and while I am certainly open to all of these things from my colleagues, I generally am not open to them from the films' subjects themselves.
Can you imagine the Pandora's Box that would be opened if every scene in which someone didn't like their hair or the fact that they had stuttered had to be defended?
But this time it was different. I wanted to share with the mother's of Fukushima how I was editing, how I was treating their story. They have trusted me with their innermost thoughts and feelings and have allowed me to interview and film their children. I wanted them to see how I am telling their story.
I was nervous. Really nervous. What if they hated the film? What if they felt like "A2" wasn't a true reflection of their story?
When I arrived, the mothers were gathered around a hot plate making octopus balls for lunch. They were relaxed and didn't seem at all anxious about seeing the film. How ironic that I was seemingly more nervous about seeing the film than they were!
After we shared a meal together, we watched "A2". I wondered what exactly each of them was thinking, what they were feeling as they watched scene after scene of their own faces, their own words, their own children through my eyes, through my lens.
After the film was over one of them simply said, "this is our story".
They talked about the common threads in their experiences, even though some of them were meeting for the first time. One of the mothers starting crying and shared that her eight-year-old daughter had come to her and said, "Mommy, you're always worried about us kids, but I want you to be healthy, too".
The discussion about the film itself quickly lead to other topics affecting their lives and their children. Although some of them had just met, it would have appeared to an outsider that they had all been long-time friends.
The mothers exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses, talked about the best websites to get up-to-date information about radiation levels and private testing facilities, and were sharing the information in real time with their friends via social media.
Before I realized what was happening, the mothers had formed a team and had given it a name and were handing out roles. It was amazing to watch, to witness the birth of a movement that is so much larger than any one of its members. No longer individuals, the strength of this group is palpable.
Later, one of them quietly came over to me and said, "Thank you for bringing us together". Choking back tears, I replied, "Thank you for trusting me with your story."