Monday, March 23, 2015

‘A2-B-C’ Screening Committee dissolved

The dissolution of the 'A2-B-C' Screening Committee in Japan was announced this evening (LINK).

This followed the recent cancellations of all screenings of the film in Japan.  I would like to thank the 'A2-B-C' Screening Committee for all of the work they have done until now to help raise awareness through organizing screenings of the film. 

This is not the end, it is simply an opportunity to begin again.

I thank you all for your encouragement and ask for your continued support.
DVD or Internet Release of 'A2-B-C' not possible

Although I have posted the following as a comment in several places, I feel the need to post it here as well.

People have messaged me asking if I can upload 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) to the internet in order to bypass the distribution system here in Japan, but there is a very important reason why that is not possible: I made an agreement with the families who appeared in the film that I would not upload it to the internet and that a DVD of the film would not be released in Japan. This was to protect them as much as possible from becoming the targets of harsh criticism for having spoken out in a country where, as the expression goes, "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down."
One of the main reasons I decided to sign with a distributor in the first place was to strengthen my ability to keep these promises that I had made with the families. As an individual it would have been difficult for me to prevent someone from uploading the film to the internet or selling pirated DVDs, but this became easier to control with the resources of a distributor.

Despite not being able to sell DVDs or release the film on the internet, typically two of the main sources of income for a distributor, they had agreed to take on 'A2-B-C' through an agreement with the 'A2-B-C' Screening Committee. The film had a theatrical release in cinemas across Japan which was then followed by dozens of private screenings organized by small groups, organizations and NPOs. Importantly, these private screenings provided a significant revenue source for the distributor, which served as an incentive to help keep the film off of the internet, thereby protecting the families to a greater degree.

Although some people may not see the difference between screening a film publicly and having it available online, releasing the film online would expose the families to even more harsh criticism than they are already experiencing and could lead to a very real concern for their safety. Despite the fact that 'A2-B-C' has only ever been available to watch in cinemas and privately organized screenings, the mothers in the film have already been the recipients of cruel bashing and internet bullying by often anonymous attackers.
One example of the outrageous attacks being made on the mothers who had spoken out about their concerns for the health and safety of their children was an article that attempted to discredit them and accused me of making the film for the express purpose of inciting discrimination against the people of Fukushima (I first wrote about this article HERE).

福島差別映画「A2-B-C」が国際的な“福島差別”を助長する (ここ

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Censorship? Self-censorship? 検閲? 自己検閲?


The Japanese distributor of 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE), my documentary about children living in Fukushima, is cancelling all domestic screenings of the film.  They are also canceling the contract to distribute the film in Japan, despite there being more than two years remaining on the agreement.

It is not clear to me how much of this decision is the result of actual censorship and how much is self-censorship.  My feeling is that it is self-censorship based on the fear of a potential censorship problem at some point in the future.  If this is the case, then it is an example of the terrifying and wide-reaching effect of the Secrecy Law (INFO).  This law does not even need to be enforced for its effect to be felt: its mere existence causes people to engage in self-censorship, imposing on themselves the very crackdown that the drafters of the legislation had surely envisioned.


It is no longer possible to have honest, open discussions and debates about what is happening in Fukushima, and the cancellation of all domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' is merely the symptom of a disease that has infected Free Speech in Japan.

The distributor is allowing the screenings in five locations across Japan that were scheduled to take place this weekend (Saga, Izu, Osaka, Nagano and Mie) to go ahead.  All screenings that were scheduled for March 16 or later have been cancelled, and while my plane was still in the air yesterday, the distributor had already contacted the organizers of all the affected screenings. 


I had already been planning to attend the two screenings in Nagano today, and the distributor has instructed me to publicly make the announcement about the cancellations here for the first time.  Inviting a few journalists to be in the audience, I am turning the Q&A into an impromptu press conference.  My hands are shaking as I post this entry and am about to walk out on stage for the first of the two post-screening discussions that will be held here in Nagano today and which will mark the last time I will see my film screened in Japan.

I have no idea what I am going to say, but I can assure you that any attempt to make me quiet will only succeed in making me louder.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Stunned. Briefly.

Although I was in Vancouver for the better part of three days, I did not really have the opportunity to see much of the city.  This is not a complaint, of course, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have visited so many countries with my films over the past few years; it is just that when I am asked, "Hey, how was it over in XX?", sometimes the only honest answer is, "Well, it looked a lot like the inside of a cinema."

I did have a little free time, and I visited the beautiful Museum of Anthropology (WEBSITE) which was just down the street from where I was staying.  And I even had a free evening that I was able to spend having dinner with long-time Vancouver-based friends.

I was invited to the University of British Columbia (UBC) by the Institute of Asian Research to screen my film 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) at the event "The ‘Triple Disaster’ in Japan on March 11 2011 - Four Years Later", which took place on the fourth anniversary of the disaster (INFO).

The special events marking the 3.11 disaster in Japan began with a minute of silence to remember those that died.  This was followed by the delivery of three presentations covering differing aspects of the disaster:

Affected Communities in Northern Japan Struggle for Recovery
Millie Creighton, Anthropology, UBC

Radiation Issues in Fukushima
David Edgington, Geography,UBC

Alternative Energy Futures in Japan
Andrew DeWitt, Rikkyo University

The screening of 'A2-B-C' took place in the afternoon in the Asian Centre, which is housed in the 1970 Osaka World Expo's Japan Pavilion having made its way to the UBC campus.

It was an honour to screen 'A2-B-C' for an audience that included UBC students and faculty, members of the community, Japanese expats living in Vancouver and even a few friends.  During the post-screening discussion, people asked about how the mothers are supported in their communities, how the film has been received abroad and in Japan, and about what I have been witnessing in my recent trips to Fukushima.

I also talked about some of the obstacles I faced early on in bringing this story to a wider audience and about some of the obstacles that I continue to face.  I never thought it was going to become easy, but I simply was not prepared for some of what is happening, like the internet bullying of mothers in the film.

Having to leave for this trip at a time when tensions surrounding the film were coming to a head and the distributor was feeling immense pressure was not exactly the best timing.  But part of me had also hoped that being out of the country and not attending any of the domestic screenings marking the 4th anniversary would provide a kind of cooling off period.  It has not worked out that way.

Now at the airport on my way home to Japan, I have just opened an e-mail from my distributor confirming that they have decided to go through with the action plan that they first talked with me about last Friday, the day before I left on this trip.  

I am stunned.  But it will be brief.  And when I land in Tokyo, it will be on my feet.

Monday, March 09, 2015


I traveled to San Diego with Kazumi Watanabe, whose NPO 'Mommy'z Tummy' (WEBSITE) has previously sponsored several screenings of 'A2-B-C' (website ENGLISH/ 日本語), and third year medical student Yo Konta, whose parents are both doctors in Fukushima.  Our plane landed at sunset, and the view, the weather and the air were perfect.

We were met at the airport by Yuko Hanaoka, Kazumi's sister.  Yuko works for Hanaoka Enterprises (INFO), the sponsor of the screening of 'A2-B-C' in San Diego (INFO), and we headed from the airport directly to their main restaurant "Hanaoka" for dinner and a meeting about the event.  We were joined by Nao Kabashima, the director of the Karen Organization of San Diego (INFO) which aids Burmese refugees living in the area, and her husband Fe.  Nao was to be the MC/ interpreter for our event.

Dinner at Hanaoka's was awesome and included sushi rolls that although I have never seen in Japan, I am sure would be extremely popular, especially among young people!  These included the spicy Fire Dragon topped with jalapeno peppers (!) and the Protein Roll made with no rice (PHOTOS below). 

The screening took place this morning at the Museum of Photographic Arts in the gorgeous Balboa Park (INFO).  In addition to sending out information about the screening to the more than 20,000 people on their mailing list, Hanaoka Enterprise's owner and chef Jun Hanaoka was at the park bright and early handing out flyers.

The screening room in the museum was beautiful, and I was floored when we arrived to find thirty young people who had volunteered to help with the event waiting for us.  Many of the volunteers were from Burma and were there through their connection with Nao's NPO.

Although no one knew how many people to expect at a screening that was to be held on a Sunday morning, 169 people were in attendance!  The volunteers joined the screening after the start of the event, making it a total of 199 people who saw the film!  We were all so grateful to be able to share this story with so many people of differing ages and backgrounds.

During the post-screening discussion, Ms. Watanabe and I answered questions about the current situation in Fukushima and about the work we are each doing now.  We were asked about the number of children now known to have thyroid cancer (over 100), and about the government's policy regarding the return of evacuees to their homes in areas that are deemed to have been decontaminated.  The most difficult question I was asked was about the cancellation of the March 1 screening that had been arranged by Ms. Watanabe (STORY) and about why a Disclaimer Statement had suddenly been published on the Japanese website of 'A2-B-C' (STORY).  Although I was able to explain the facts of the situation to the audience, that is to say to re-cap what I written on my blog and to read the Disclaimer to the audience, I apologized for currently not being at liberty to explain the matter any further.
The highlight of the event was when we called Yo up to the stage, and he shared about the nuclear disaster from his unique point-of-view: Yo's parents are both medical doctors in Fukushima, and he himself is a third-year medical student.  Yo had not seen the film before and he said that there were many things in it that he had never seen or known about, despite being from Fukushima. Sharing that he has friends who are doing decontamination work, Yo expressed sadness that many young people are in a situation where they are forced to risk their future health in exchange for money because there is not much other work and jobs in decontamination offer relatively good pay.

Immediately after the event, Mr. Hanaoka drove me to the airport so that I could catch a plane to Vancouver where 'A2-B-C' is screening this week in a symposium about the 3.11 Disaster at the University of British Columbia (INFO).  In the car, we talked about the interesting paths that our lives have taken: Mr. Hanaoka, originally from Japan, has lived more than half of his life in the US, and in just a few years, I, too, will have lived over half of my life abroad.  Having arrived with just $300 when he was 24, Mr. Hanaoka now owns multiple restaurants, the profits of which he is using to help support and raise awareness about issues that he cares deeply about.  These include programs as varied as the Karen Organization, and screenings like the one held today to help raise awareness about Fukushima, which through Mr. Hanaoka's support, was free and open to the public.

I am so grateful for the encouragement of so many people over the past four years, and ask for your continued support as the 4th anniversary of March 11 is marked this week and the 5th year is entered.  I will be documenting the situation in Fukushima for as long as I feel this is my calling and for as long as I am permitted to and am able.

And now I will close, having safely arrived in Vancouver in the middle of a crisp and clear night, the sky full of stars.

Friday, March 06, 2015


This evening the distributor of my documentary 'A2-B-C' suddenly added a bilingual disclaimer to the Japanese website of the film (HERE).  It can be accessed by pushing the orange tab on the website front page.

The disclaimer (HERE), which is signed by me, states nothing that is new or surprising.

I have been committed for months to fly tomorrow to San Diego and then on to Vancouver for screenings of the film to mark the 4th Anniversary of March 11 (INFO), and so I will not be in Japan for the next week.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Documenting the March 11 disaster: four years on

It is hard to believe that the 4th Anniversary of the March 11 disaster, known here in Japan simply as "3.11", is approaching.

4th anniversary screenings of 'A2-B-C'

Over the next week and a half leading up to the anniversary, there are several international screenings of my documentary 'A2-B-C'  (website ENGLISH/ 日本語), including:
  • Germany in Arnoldshain (March 3) and Dortmund (March 11)
  • USA in San Diego (March 8), Kailua Kona (March 10) and U. of Hawai’i (March 11)
  • Canada in Vancouver (March 11)
  • New Zealand in Otago (March 13)
full list and links HERE
There are also domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' being held all over Japan (国内上映スケージュルここ).  Yesterday was the first of these screenings, and it was not without controversy: I had to make the decision to cancel what would have been the first public screening of the film in Fukushima City just days before the event was to take place (story below).

Documenting 3.11: the first ten days

My journey documenting 3.11 started with the first entry I wrote (HERE) and a short documentary I filmed about panic buying in Tokyo a couple of days after the disaster (story HERE).  This was followed by several short documentaries posted in quick succession.  A compilation VIDEO of all of these early short documentaries that I edited together and posted for the 2nd anniversary is below, and the accompanying guest blog published by Discovery News is HERE.  The full collection of my early short documentaries about the disaster is HERE and all of the guest blogs I wrote for Discovery News can be found HERE.

3.11 changed the lives of so many people, including my own:

Documenting 3.11: One month later
After reading a newspaper article describing the government's plan to re-open schools near the zone 20-30km from the nuclear power plant just one month after the nuclear disaster, I traveled to Fukushima with friend and cameraman Colin O'Neill.  We documented the children living there, and soon after we returned to Tokyo we posted a four part "making of" documentary, beginning with this Video (part 1 below, all 4 parts HERE)

This would become my first feature documentary about the disaster, 'In the Grey Zone' (TRAILER below and website HERE):

Documenting 3.11: Six months later
Six months later while editing 'In the Grey Zone' in Japan with friend and colleague Ed Ison, Colin and I traveled back to Minamisoma City in Fukushima where we filmed an update that we posted in three parts (Part 1 story HERE and VIDEO below, stories about Part 2 HERE and Part 3 HERE, with all three VIDEOS HERE).

Documenting 3.11: One year later

For the 1st Anniversary of the disaster in March 2012, I filmed a three-part update about the children living in the 20-30km zone which I posted to my channel (Story Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE and Part 3 HERE, VIDEO part one below, all three videos HERE):

Documenting 3.11: Fifteen months later

A couple of months later, I returned to Fukushima, this time with friend and cameraman Koji Fujita, and in the summer of 2012 I posted two short films about the continuing nuclear disaster.  The first of these was 'Nuclear Refugees: the people of Iitate Village, one year later' (story HERE and VIDEO below):

The second short documentary I posted that summer was 'In Containment', a five-part series that documented some shocking revelations about life in Fukushima after the disaster and found me entering the no-go zone for the first time (VIDEO for Part 3 below and those for Parts 2, 3 and 4 HERE).  During the filming and editing of 'In Containment', I realized I was uncovering a story much larger story than just an "update", and that I had in fact started making a new film.  Parts 1 and 5 would eventually form the beginning of my second feature documentary about the Fukushima disaster, 'A2-B-C' (website ENGLISH/ 日本語).

Documenting 3.11: The children in Fukushima

I continued filming throughout the autumn of 2012 and early winter of 2013, focusing on the children and families living in Fukushima.  Posting the trailer in February of 2013 (TRAILER below), it was serendipitous that the last day of editing I did on the film before handing it off to Ed and Colin back in the UK to finish the post-production was on March 11, 2013, the second anniversary of the disaster (STORY).

Documenting 3.11: The story continues

In between the continuing international and domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C', I am currently filming the follow-up to 'A2-B-C', in what will be the third film in my series about Fukushima.  Thank you all so very much for your continued support and encouragement.


First public screening of 'A2-B-C' in Fukushima City cancelled

Although the first public screening of 'A2-B-C' in Fukushima City was scheduled for yesterday, after careful consideration, I made the decision to cancel the screening late last week (「A2-B-C」の福島上映が已む無き事情により、中止となりました。ここ).  There were many factors that impacted my decision to cancel the screening on such short notice, and these included my feeling that the film could be shown safely and freely in Fukushima while both protecting the people in the film and those in attendance at the screening.  The fact that it was general consensus among the team and the screening organizers that this film about Fukushima could not be screened in Fukushima at this time says more about the current problems in Fukushima than the film itself.  Silence speaks louder than words.

The event in Fukushima, arranged by Watanabe Kazumi from NPO Mommy's Tummy (who has organized screenings of the film before like THESE ones in Kyushu), still took place.  A film about Chernobyl was screened in place of 'A2-B-C', and this was followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Konta (GP) and Dr. Kobayashi (psychiatrist) with whom I have been filming and presenting occasionally over the last year (STORY).

Yesterday's event began with me apologizing for the sudden change of program and accepting responsibility for the cancellation.  Not knowing what kind of situation I would be walking into, I had felt sick to my stomach all morning.  Interestingly, no one seemed surprised that the film could not be shown, and I felt something that seemed like relief in the room when the announcement was made.  Or was that just me...

After the event in Fukushima, we all headed for the city of Sendai, the epicenter of the 3.11 earthquake, where 'A2-B-C' was screened so successfully that after the stress of having to cancel the screening in Fukushima it was almost surreal.

One of the scariest parts of the current situation in Fukushima is a thickening atmosphere of not being able to speak out, or share one's thoughts, or have a healthy debate.  Self-censorship is endemic.  And silence, like radiation, can be an invisible killer.