Sunday, June 29, 2014


Today I had the honour of being invited to speak at the 2014 Cultural Typhoon, "one of the largest events of Cultural Studies in Asia-Pacific Regions" (WEBSITE).  This was the second time for me to present my work at this conference after my film 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) was screened for the first time in Japan during last year's edition (INFO).

This year the conference took place on the gorgeous campus of the International Christian University (WEBSITE).  

In the morning I was a panelist at a symposium called "A verification Study on the media environment- On the 3rd year of the 311 nuclear accident of Fukushima".  I have had the honour of presenting with two of the other panelists, Waseda University Professor Mamoru Ito and Tokyo University of the Arts Professor Yoshitaka Mōri, in March of this year (HERE) and earlier this month (HERE).  I don't really think about how I make films, so it is extremely humbling (although slightly surreal) to hear these influential media academics talk about my work.  And I often feel they understand more about how I make films than I do!

I was there to talk about my work as an independent filmmaker covering issues that are affecting the children living in Fukushima, while Mainichi Shinbun (newspaper) journalist Kosuke Hino, spoke about covering the same topic within the limitations of a large media organization.

I must admit to being slightly concerned if my Japanese ability would not only allow me to understand the academic nature of what was being discussed, but then also enable me to contribute anything even half-way intelligent to the debate.

I think I did OK. ;)

Prof. Mōri, me, Mr. Hino, Prof. Ito
After a lunch break in the beautiful grounds outside the ICU chapel (PHOTO below), 'A2-B-C' was screened for conference participants.  Following the screening, there was just enough time for a brief Q&A and discussion before I had to rush to the train station to attend another screening.

'A2-B-C' was also being screened twice today in Saitama, an hour and a half outside of Tokyo.  The screening was arranged by the curators of Kaguya, a house built more than 150 years and is now an art gallery.  The house is situated in a gloriously green setting, and the intricate craftsmanship of the building itself is a work of art. 

More than 60 people were gathered together for the second screening, and I arrived with just 10 minutes to spare before the post-screening discussion.  The film is 71 minutes, but the discussion over tea and homemade baked goods that followed lasted more than an hour and a half (!).  It was a wonderful opportunity to hear so many different opinions and be asked so many questions on a variety of topics.  This experience solidified for me that a film like 'A2-B-C' really does have more impact when paired with some kind post-screening discussion, however informal, to help people talk through some of the shocking things they have just seen.

After screening the film, I am often asked, "What can I do?", but I am afraid I do not know the answer.   I am still trying to figure out what I can do myself, because for me, this is just the beginning of what I am capable.  For people who watch the film to suddenly want to do something is an important first step, but what each of us can do is different; and while we are all on the same team, we have different roles.  To know what it is we can do, we must look into our own hearts for the answer.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Counting Blessings

I've been a bit quieter than usual on Facebook (HERE) and Twitter (HERE) this week.  Any time I have had between 'A2-B-C' screenings (listed on the 'A2-B-C' FB page HERE) and interviews about the film has found me back in the editing suite completing a new documentary.

I say "new" documentary, but it is actually a film I have been working on in the background for the past six years (!).  It's called '-1287', pronounced "minus 1287", (WEBSITE), and I first posted the trailer for it two years ago after completing 'In the Grey Zone' (WEBSITE), my first film about children living in Fukushima.  

At the time, I believed '-1287' would be my first "post-Fukushima" work (which I wrote about HERE).  But then before I realized what was happening, '-1287' was pushed to the back-burner as I suddenly produced 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE), a film that temporarily took over my life. 

Promoting a film is part of being a filmmaker, and I am so honoured for the opportunity to have been on the film festival circuit for the past year bringing 'A2-B-C' to Germany (HERE), Guam (HERE), Ukraine (HERE), India (HERE), Taiwan (HERE), Brazil (HERE) and beyond.  While I am so grateful for the experiences that I have had traveling with the film abroad (and continue to have while traveling with the film domestically), I am, at heart, a film-MAKER, and I have had a yearning to be back either beyond the camera or in the edit suite.

This month a dear friend who is away for the summer has graciously allowed me to stay in their gorgeous flat with a soothing cool breeze that blows through the halls day and night.  The timing could not have been more perfect, and I have used this space of solitude and peace to finish the editing of '-1287'.  I will be "locking picture" this coming week, and then the sound mix, colour grade and subtitle translation will begin.  I look forward to introducing the international team behind '-1287' soon, as well as about the World Premier of the film this autumn, details of which are extremely exciting (!) but under press embargo until August.

Thank you all so very much for your continued support while I continue pursuing my life work sharing stories that will never be commercial successes.  As the saying goes, I may not "have two nickles to rub together", but the Grace I have received has been life-changing.  Someone recently told me to stop "playing around making films that don't make money".  I suppose the suggestion was that Grace can't fill an empty stomach.  But can money fill an empty heart?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Another Hiroshima

After an AWESOME last screening of 'A2-B-C' in the Tokyo cinema on Friday (INFO), I was back on the road again yesterday morning, this time for the beginning of the Japan-wide release of the film.  Taking the bullet train, I headed for Western Japan for the opening day of the theatrical release in the Nagoya Cinematech (INFO).

When I arrived at the theatre, the screening was already underway, and I was over-whelmed to hear that it was to another sold-out crowd, with folding chairs in the aisles and cushions on the floor (please don't tell the fire inspectors!).

During the post-screening discussion, I was interested to find that several of the questions and comments focused not directly on the situation for the families in Fukushima, but rather on the effect that this nuclear disaster is having on the people here in Western Japan.

One young father shared that he expected to be more shocked by the film, but that he guessed he must be "used to the situation" because he didn't feel shocked at all.  He went on to say that while there is not so much concern here about external radiation exposure (given that this is quite far from the damaged nuclear reactors), he was extremely worried about internal radiation exposure from food sources.  As an example, he said that when he takes his children out for fast food, he never allows them to order a certain chain's fried fish sandwiches, because he fears that they may be made with bits of seafood that have not been properly tested for radioactive contamination.

With limited time for the Q&A, I had to prevent myself from getting on my soapbox and preaching that Fukushima aside, considering chemicals, additives, preservatives, processing, and GMO's, that fast food is not actually real food and certainly isn't something he should be feeding his children (!).  

Instead I expressed my sadness that he was not shocked by what he saw in the film.  The situation for the families is horrifying and the fact that for so many people this is somehow becoming the "new normal" is a dangerous precedent (in February 2013, I wrote an entry called "A new normal for the children in Fukushima" HERE).  As Nozomi, the 17-year-old girl towards the end of 'A2-B-C' says, "Right now, the biggest problem is that everyone is starting to forget what's happening".

After the allotted time for the Q&A ended, an informal discussion continued in the lobby for nearly an hour, until I had to rush back to the station to move on to the next city in the tour.

I hopped on another bullet train, this time headed for Hiroshima where 'A2-B-C' is having a two-week residency at the Yokogawa Cinema (INFO).  This is the second time for the film to be seen in Hiroshima, the first was during THIS film festival last year.

Arriving late last evening and with just about enough energy left to lift a glass, I did just that with the kind help of a local colleague!

This morning, I visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, one of my favourite places to spend time in this city.  As a friend guided me around, we sat by the water overlooking the Peace Dome.  Suddenly, my friend asked if it had occurred to me that I was from the country that had dropped the bomb and that he was from the country upon which the bomb had been dropped.  Looking up at the Peace Dome, I replied that, no, this had not occurred to me.  I thought about what he had asked.  After a few moments I looked at him and said that I felt I was there simply as a person, one who is against war and prays for peace.

Next we visited the former building of the Japan Bank Hiroshima Branch where the Hiroshima Peace Poster exhibition 2014 was taking place (PHOTO below).  The bank survived the atomic bombing, and the grand building with its horrible history makes for both an amazing and intimidating exhibition space; amazing in that the main rooms with their vaulted ceilings and the basement with its industrial safes make for a gallery in which most artists could only dream of exhibiting... and yet intimidating in that it would be nearly impossible for any exhibition to compete with such a sacred space.

The first show I saw here was last year when Chim↑Pom's anti-nuclear-themed "Hiroshima!!!!" took over the entire place and made it seem as though this building had been curated to house their exhibition (and not the other way around).  After seeing the Chim↑Pom exhibition HERE, I honestly can not imagine any other installation ever having the same effect within these walls.

In the afternoon, after meeting more local friends and colleagues, we headed over to Yokogawa cinema for the screening of 'A2-B-C', where a crowd of people from Hiroshima, home to Japan's first nuclear tragedy, were waiting to see a film about Japan's latest.

Immediately, following the Q&A of 'A2-B-C', a screening of  'Super Local Heroes', a documentary about people who had evacuated to Hiroshima after the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, was held.  'A2-B-C' documents people who could not evacuate, while 'Super Local Heroes' documents those that did.  Fascinating!  Unfortunately, I was not able to stay for the film as I had to rush back to the airport to catch a flight, but the director, Tanaka Toshinoru (PHOTO below), kindly gave me a press DVD.

And now, as has so often been the case over the past year, I am decompressing in an airport, writing down my thoughts and waiting for my next flight...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Out with a Bang!

Today marked the end of the six-week theatrical release of 'A2-B-C' in Tokyo.  After the original three-week run was extended (INFO), I couldn't have imagined a greater honour...

But not only was today's screening sold out, it was oversold!  When there were no more folding chairs to set up in the back of the cinema, the staff handed out cushions so that people could sit on the stairs and in the aisles (PHOTO below).

And as if this was not enough, I also learned that 'A2-B-C' was #1 on Cinema Today's access ranking (ahead of "Grand Budapest Hotel", which was #2)! PHOTO below and accompanying article HERE and below:


Dr. Matsui Eisuke, whom I had first met at a medical conference in Germany in March (INFO) joined the post-screening discussion to help contextualize for the audience some of the medical issues brought up in the film.

6/20最終日10:30の回上映後トークイベントに、岐阜環境医学研究所・座禅洞所長 松井英介さんの登壇も決定!著書「放射線被ばくから 子どもたちを守る」も出されている松井先生に、イアン監督とトークしていただきます!

After the screening, I was delighted to see some familiar faces in the audience, among them friend, digital media producer, artist, and 'otaku'-extraordinaire, Joseph Tame (website HERE, PHOTO below) whom I had first met several years ago when he filmed an event where I was screening my first film, "the ballad of vicki and jake" (WEBSITE), here in Tokyo.

Later, the day's events were published in an article on Yahoo Japan News (HERE/ここ):

This has been an absolutely amazing and humbling adventure, but it is not over yet: tomorrow I am back on the road as the film is released in cinemas across Japan!

First two stops: Nagoya and Hiroshima (INFO below).  Then on to Osaka, Kyoto and beyond!




Nagoya Cinematech, June 21-27 (everyday at 1PM)
* director Ian Thomas Ash in attendance June 21

Hiroshima Yokogawa Cinema, June 21-July 6
(until June 26 everyday at 3:10PM, after June 26 time TBA)
* director Ian Thomas Ash in attendance June 22

BONUS PHOTO: The distributors of 'A2-B-C' return to the office with all the materials for the film.  Never ones to miss an opportunity to promote a film, rather than put it in a bag they openly carry the poster for 'A2-B-C' on the train!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Anonymous Attack

This weekend marked the end of the fifth week for 'A2-B-C' (website ENGLISH/ 日本語) to be in the theatre in Tokyo (INFO).  Despite the rainy-season weather and the start of the World Cup, big audiences came out to see the film, and I continue to be humbled at the response the film is receiving.

This is not to say that all of the response has been positive.  One notable (and particularly vicious) attack on me, the film and the mothers who appear in it, was published this week in Asa Ge Plus (アサ芸プラスここ) under the title "Fukushima Discrimination Film 'A2-B-C' Encourages International Discrimination of Fukushima" (福島差別映画「A2-B-C」が国際的な“福島差別”を助長する). 

This awkwardly-worded and repetitively-titled article accused me of intentionally inciting discrimination against Fukushima without, of course, suggesting any possible motive for me wanting to do so.  I can certainly handle this kind of accusation but the article then goes on to attempt to discredit the mothers in the film at a time when they are already feeling exposed and vulnerable to retaliation.

I was never asked for my comments about the story before it was published, and the writing was simply not of high quality (I mean, if you are going to attack me, at least have the decency to do it with proper grammar, for goodness sakes!).  Further putting into question the editorial integrity of the magazine, the article was published anonymously, with no byline.  Anonymously attacking people with differing points-of-view is a particularly popular weapon of choice in Japan (one needs to look no further than popular website "2-channel" for some gruesome examples), but it only leaves one guessing about any possible political affiliations or motivations of the author.

Thankfully, the Twitter-verse rallied around us and encouraged people to go and see the film.  With with a nearly full house at the 10:30am screening on a rainy Saturday morning, it would indeed seem "there is no bad publicity".  And there were even a few chuckles to be had, like when some Twitter users altered one syllable in the name of the publication into the word for "a#@hole"(!). 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Deciphering Japan

Last evening I was honoured to take part in the symposium "Deciphering Japan" organized by Dr. Minna Valjakka (University of Helsinki / Tokyo University of the Arts) and overseen by Dr. Mouri Yoshitaka (to whom I am grateful for introducing my work in a number of settings, including THIS symposium held in March and the opening night of 'A2-B-C' HERE). 

The focus of the symposium was on independent filmmaking in Japan and its role in disseminating information among a seemingly ever-tightening control of the official media:
Creating video documentaries is a popular trend to spread information on current issues. In Japan, it is also becoming a significant form of giving a voice to people whose perceptions are not covered by the official media. What kind of challenges do independent filmmakers encounter in Japan? What does it take to interpret the story of a Japanese individual person or a community through film?
Friend and colleague Adrian Storey (a.k.a. Uchujin WEBSITE) and I were invited to speak about our path to filmmaking and our lives as filmmakers in Japan, as well as share clips from some of our recent films.

Taking part in post-screening discussions and symposiums like this, gives me an opportunity to think about what it is that I do.  It isn't often that I actually sit down and reflect deeply on what I have done (and certainly not regarding what I am about to do), and so having to explain what I do and why I do it forces me to actually think about it.  And every time I do, I have some kind of revelation, some understanding that I have never had before about what I do.  

And last night's was HUGE.

During my talk, I shared two clips of my work.  The first was from 'A2-B-C' (website HERE, trailer BELOW), the film I have been promoting since last year.  I also shared a clip from my newest film, '-1287' (website HERE, trailer below) which will be premiering in September.  As it is not even completely finished, very few people have seen '-1287', and it was the first time for me to publicly share any clips from it.  I was really surprised at how self-conscious I found myself when it was playing.

Both Adrian's path to filmmaking and his filmmaking style are quite different from mine, which made both for a fascinating presentation and extremely interesting discussion.  Where I have only lived and worked as a filmmaker in Japan, Adrian has lived and worked in many countries around the world;  and while my work is almost exclusively independent documentary features, Adrian directs both independent documentaries and larger commercial pieces.  

From his recent work, Adrian shared "Only Japanese Imam in Tokyo" and "281_Anti-Nuke" (both full films BELOW).  
281 is a mysterious street artist who has come to world fame because of his anti nuclear power art. But his art has also made him many enemies...a reason why he has to conceal his identity.

Following our presentations, the floor was opened for questions from the students and members of the public in attendance.  Not surprisingly, many of the questions were about the practicalities of filming people on the fringe of society, both how we gain their trust and how we try to protect them even while sharing their story in such a public way.  

And one of the last questions: how do we as filmmakers protect ourselves both from the people who would want to stop us from telling these stories and from the darkness that often accompanies delving into these topics.

Yes, how do we protect ourselves?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Silver Screening

This week a landmark was reached for 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE): the film was screened for the 25th time in an international film festival!  The Gdańsk DOCFilm Festival (INFO) also marked the second time for 'A2-B-C' to screen in Poland; the first was last autumn in Warsaw when the emotional debate that followed the screening seemed to last longer than the film itself! (story HERE)

Although I was unfortunately not able to attend the screening in Gdańsk, 'A2-B-C' was in good hands with my friends and colleagues Yasuhiro Igarashi and Ewa Dryjańska, who both introduced the film and took part in the post-screening discussion.  

Rather than paraphrase her words, I re-print with permission portions of Ewa's report on the screening.
The screening of "A2-B-C" in Gdańsk during the GdańskDoc Film Festival on the 6th of June 2014 was special because it took place in a region where the Polish government is considering building the first NPP in the country. Because of this context the festival decided to hold a special screening of the film.

Before the screening, the Japanese scientist Yasuhiro Igarashi presented a short introduction about the situation in Fukushima. The information that the audience received thanks to the film and presentation was new for most of the people. They reacted lively and it felt that they were taken aback hearing statements diminishing the danger for the children of Fukushima. They were shocked to come to know that people in the prefecture were told that if they smiled radiation would have no effect on them.
That is why the audience asked many questions during the discussion which took place after the screening. It was led by TV producer and film coordinator Jacek Borzych who, apart from Yasuhiro Igarashi and myself, also invited Greenpeace activist Tomasz Dziemiańczuk. Tomasz was one of the 30 activists arrested by Russia after protesting against drilling in the Arctic. He also climbed Mt. Fuji on the first anniversary of the Fukushima accident with an antinuclear message. Tomasz stressed that it is important for all of the people to challenge the authorities and raise their voices.
Jacek Borzych reminded us of the many events and circumstances which took place after the catastrophe in Chernobyl and showed that there are many similarities with the situation in Japan now. The Chernobyl accident is remembered well by many Poles who were informed only several days after the accident of nuclear fallout so for that time they could not protect themselves or their children.

The audience asked many questions about the situation in Japan. They were curious who would take responsibility for the health of the Fukushima people and also asked about the actions of TEPCO and the Japanese government. For sure the screening in Gdańsk made viewers ask themselves an important question: what would happen if such an accident happened on the Polish coast?

PHOTOS: Ewa Dryjańska (c) 2014

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Rainy days

Today found me back at the cinema in Tokyo for a post screening Q&A at the end of the first week of the 3-week extension of 'A2-B-C' (INFO).  I continue to be over-whelmed at the interest in the film and the numbers of people who are coming out to see it... even at 10:30 on a rainy Sunday morning (!).

Over the next two weeks, there will be two more planned Q&A's (on Saturday, June 14 and Friday, June 20), and I will also be making surprise visits to the cinema.  After that, 'A2-B-C' will go on a domestic tour to Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Hiroshima and more cities to be announced (schedule HERE日本語)!

Thank you all so very much for your continued support!

Thursday, June 05, 2014


Even as the theatrical release of 'A2-B-C' in Tokyo has just been extended by three weeks (INFO) and additional post-screening events are being planned, the distributor is getting ready for the so-called "road show".  This is when 'A2-B-C' will go on the road and take up residency in theatres across Japan.

For part of the promotion ahead of the release in the Kansai cities of Osaka and Kyoto, I was flown flown down to Osaka this morning to visit one of the cinemas where 'A2-B-C' will be screening.  For four hours I sat in a meeting room while reporters, journalists and radio broadcasters filed in one-by-one to interview me.  Then, before I knew it, the day was over, and like I have done with so many of my blogs over the past year, I am now writing this from the airport waiting for my flight home...

This was the fist time for me to be interviewed by so many people in such a short time, but it was a really interesting experience.  Being asked questions forces me to not only think about what it is that I do, but also to articulate that into words.  And more than once I found myself saying "I hadn't thought of that before.  Thank you for asking" before sharing a memory that had been hidden away even from me.

'A2-B-C' opens on July 5 in Osaka (cinema info HERE), and on the same day, it will also open in Kyoto (HERE).

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


With so much travel and excitement during the last few days, including the 3-week extension on the theatrical release of 'A2-B-C' in Tokyo (INFO), it seems that I have missed sharing some very important and humbling news:

'A2-B-C' was awarded with a Special Recognition at the 2014 Uranium Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!  

In part, the citation reads, "'A2-B-C' is fantastic and gruesome at the same time."

Although I appreciate this recognition so very much, it is the mothers in the film who should be commended for their courage in speaking out.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity over the past year to take this incredible journey and share the story of these mothers and their children with people all over the world.

The full press release can be found HERE (excerpt below):

Monday, June 02, 2014


Arriving home in Japan almost two hours late on Friday night (thanks, United!), I made a mad dash for the cinema where what I believed to be the closing night of my film 'A2-B-C' was taking place (INFO).  Suitcases in tow, I arrived with just 30 minutes to spare.

Shortly before entering the cinema for the post-screening Q&A, my distributor shared with me some amazing NEWS: the theatrical run of 'A2-B-C' in Tokyo had been extended! Although Friday night would be the last evening showing in Tokyo, the film was set to screen daily at 10:30 am for the next three weeks starting the following day! 
My distributor had written to tell me this news while I was in South America, but reading the e-mail quickly on the go, I obviously hadn't understood clearly: while I had thought that the release was to be extended "UNTIL" the morning showing the following (Saturday, May 31, which would have meant just one additional screening beyond the original final date of Friday, May 30th), what they had actually written to tell me was that morning screenings were to be extended "FROM" Saturday, May 31.  

So while Friday night marked the last evening screening of 'A2-B-C' in Tokyo, it can still be seen daily at 10:30am until June 20.  This will mean a total of six weeks in the cinema, which is quite long (and rare) for a documentary these days.  I am just so very grateful to all of the friends, family members and supporters who have helped to make this possible.

Saturday morning found me slightly jet-lagged, but thrilled to be back at the cinema for another post-screening Q&A.  Over the next few weeks, I will be making both planned and surprise visits to the theatre in Tokyo, as the film embarks on a country-wide cinema release known as a "road show" in Japanese (dates and cities HERE 日本語).

Yesterday, I met American documentary filmmakers Deborah DeSnoo and Robbie Leppzer (PHOTO below).

Robbie's extremely important and much-anticipated film, (in Japanese) YANKEE GENPATSU HEISA, BEI VERMONT SHU GONEN NO KIROKU (or literally) "The Shut Down of Yankee Plant in the state of Vermont in the United States, A five year's record", aired last night on NHK BS1 (INFO HERE), and we met to discuss our films in the afternoon.

The film documents citizens living near the Yankee Nuclear Plant in Vermont as they fight to have it decommissioned on schedule while the plant's operators apply to have their license to operate the plant extended for an additional 20 years beyond its original 40-year life-span.

***** EDITED June 4, 2014 12:15pm JST *****
At the request of a colleague, I have removed part of this entry.  In its place is a quote from an article about the Secrecy Law and self-censorship that I published in March of this year.  The full article can be found HERE.
Before the designated secrets bill was even passed into law, its affect was already being felt. Professional journalists and newspaper editors, bloggers and social media users were asking themselves “could what I am about to publish be considered a ‘state secret’?” and then weighing how much risk they were willing to take. The bill had yet to become law but it had already motivated the people it was meant to control to start controlling themselves through self-censorship.

「ヤンキー原発 閉鎖 ~米・バーモント州 5年の記録~」

BS1  6月1日(日)午後10:00~10:50

去年夏、米国で福島第1原発と同じ型の原子炉を持つ原発の閉鎖が決まった。バーモント州にあるバーモントヤンキー原発。老朽化による汚染水漏れなどによ り、運転延長への反対運動が起きていたが、福島の事故後、論争が過熱した。40年間の運転免許が切れる2012年に閉鎖すべきだとする住民と州政府。反発 する電力会社は州を告訴した。原発閉鎖はどのような経緯をたどったのか…その過程を米国人監督が追った。