Friday, July 11, 2014

Never forget: it's all about the money

On Thursday, I was invited to a screening of "Somba Ke- The Money Place", directed by David Henningson (website HERE) at Seijo University (event info HERE).  The screening was followed by a discussion session called "The Global Impacts of the Uranium Trade" with the filmmaker and moderated by Seijo University's Dennis Riches.

The film documents the Sahtu Dene, a group of First Nation people in Northern Canada, as they are impacted by the affects of uranium mining near where they live.  Uranium mining had been proposed to them as good for their economy and modernization, even though they had lived perfectly fine for thousands of years without television or Coca Cola.  The Sahtu Dene were employed to help transport the uranium while the danger to their health was hidden from them by the Canadian government.  

There are more than a few similarities between this story and the way the Japanese government introduced nuclear power plants into the agricultural communities of rural Japan. 

When filmmaker David Henningson learned that uranium from the El Dorado mine in Canada was used to make the nuclear bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that some of the Sahtu Dene planned to go to Japan to apologize to atomic bomb survivors for unwittingly helping to create such destruction, he knew he had to make a film.  But the film he ended up making was very different from the one he had planned...

Tonight I conducted a Q&A and talk after a screening of my own film about how radiation can affect a group of people, 'A2-B-C', (WEBSITE ENGLISH/ 日本語).  While the theatrical release unfolds around the country (currently screening in the Kansai cities of Osaka and Kyoto, info HERE), private screenings in and around the capital are taking place following a successful six-week theatrical release in Tokyo (INFO).

Tonight's event, called 「3.11を忘れない」"Never Forget 3.11" (INFO 日本語) was the first of a three-part series taking place this year on July 11, August 11 and September 11, where films related to the March 11, 2011 disaster are being screened.  The screening in the 240-seat hall in the ocean-side city of Kamakura, one hour outside of Tokyo, was completely sold-out, and they unfortunately had to turn some people away.  (Since the event was taking place in a public hall, they had to strictly adhere to the fire regulations... no sitting in the aisles and standing in the back as at some other recent screenings of the film).

The event, in its second year, is organized by physician Dr. Taro Sakai and United Christ of Church Pastor Kensaku Iwai with assistance by many volunteers from the local community. 

(left photo) with Dr. Sakai ; (right photo, L to R) a volunteer, Dr. Sakai, Rev. Iwai and his wife
The post-screening discussion was led by local radio personality Ms. Nakatani Natsuko, and although the plan was to have us speaking from the stage, I asked if we could do it from the floor in front of the stage.  I am not an expert, I am simply a filmmaker, and I feel uncomfortable speaking from a level higher than the audience, especially when there are often real experts in the audience who know much more about medical and radiation issues than I do.  To facilitate a more intimate and friendly conversation (as much as is possible with over 200 people), Ms. Nakatani and I descended the stairs.

The audience's questions were varied;  Do I drink the water and eat the food in Fukushima when I go there?  Yes.  What will the long term affects be on the children living in Fukushima?  No one really knows.  What did I think of the rag mag that published an outrageously critical article about me, the film and the mothers that appear in it (INFO)?  While I feel sorry for the criticism the mothers continue to receive, the article helped bring more people into the cinema to see what all the fuss was about, so I say "bring it on"!

No matter what question one could ask about this disaster, whether it is why more people were not evacuated, why non-radioactive iodine was not handed out, why the nuclear plants were not more quake-resistant, why people's homes are undergoing "decontamination" even though it is proven that it is ineffective, why anything, the answer can always be traced back to one thing: money.

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