Saturday, March 26, 2016

Another year, another anniversary

As events marking the 5th anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disaster continued, last Sunday I was honoured to be invited to participate in a symposium organized by NPO Chikurin-sha (INFO).  Other panelists included two people who had evacuated from Fukushima to the Tokyo area and two whom have not been able to evacuate.  
To represent those who had not been able to evacuate was Mrs. Sugano, who attended the conference with her husband and children.  The Sugano's are one of the main families documented in my film 'A2-B-C' (website), and it is always wonderful to see them.

With the recent stepping down (firings?!) of some major broadcast journalists (news story HERE) and the outrageous statement of Sanae Takaichi, Japan's communications minister, about the "possibility of shutting down television companies that flout rules on political impartiality" (news story HERE), on Thursday I attended the press conference "Japan's Journalists Speak Out" at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (INFO).
The journalists were resolute in sharing their thoughts and even felt comfortable enough to debate with each other about what they see as the root of the problems, including if the pressure was external (by the government) or self-inflicting (self-censorship).  Some quotes I found particularly interesting:
Shigetada Kishii: "Journalism is here to check and criticize the government.  If we can not do that, then the media is dead."

Soichiro Tahara: "The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression, and the Constitution is more important than the Broadcast Law."

Akihiro Otani: "NHK is  not present today.  The foreign media is here, but not the national broadcaster.  This demonstrates the problem here today.  This (control of the media) is something that is unthinkable in (other democracies).  This is something that should only happen in an extreme dictatorial state."
The entire press conference can be seen on the FCCJ channel, HERE in English, 日本語ここ.

Today, I spent the day in Gifu at the beautiful Entokuji Temple  where a conference was held by the Preserving Deciduous Teeth Network (PDTN). Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, this group is working to create "a nationwide network of people contributing their children's shed deciduous teeth. The collected teeth will be examined to determine the concentration of Strontium-90 deposited within them" (INFO).  I was invited to attend the conference by Dr. Ichihara, whom I had met in Berlin last month when screening the rough cut of my latest documentary about Fukushima (STORY). 
When I arrived, I was happy to also see Dr. Matsui and his wife, whom I had last met nearly two years ago when Dr. Matsui led the post-screening discussion of the final cinema showing in Tokyo of my film 'A2-B-C' after the theatrical run in the capital (STORY).  I had first met Dr. Matsui several months earlier in Germany while attending THIS IPPNW conference about Chernobyl and Fukushima.

At the conference in Gifu, two amazing films by Wladimir Tchertkoff about the disaster at Chernobyl, 'Le Sacrifice' (2003) and 'Controverses Nucléaires' (2003), were screened accompanied by a talk given by the director himself.  For anyone interested in nuclear issues, these two films are essential viewing.

Now, as April approaches, I wonder how many people are still thinking about Fukushima.  "Will it take another year, another anniversary for people to remember?" I wonder, as I head back into the edit suite to finish my new documentary about children living amid contamination...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Screenings, Effect

During the marking of the 5th anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disasters, screenings of my documentaries about the effect on children of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima were held in several cities around the world and in Japan (screenings in Canada, Germany HERE, Japan domestic screenings HERE).  Just back from screenings in Germany and Ireland (STORY), my assistant, Rei, and I traveled to Nagano Prefecture on Friday, March 11, to attend screenings of my film "In the Grey Zone" (WEBSITE) on Saturday (screening INFO).

On the way to Nagano, I received a notice about an extremely important press conference that had been suddenly scheduled about a group that had formed for families with children who have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer after the nuclear disaster; it was scheduled for the following day when we were supposed to be in Nagano for the screenings.

This issue of post-Fukushima pediatric thyroid cancer is the main theme of my new documentary, and I felt I needed to be at the press conference in Tokyo.  Arriving in Nagano on Friday evening, I held my breath as I told the screening organizers about the press conference and asked for their understanding in my desire to return to Tokyo first thing in the morning, thus missing the Saturday screenings which I had come all the way to Nagano to attend.  I explained that their desire to show my film and create a dialogue in their community about what has happened in Fukushima was directly tied to my desire to return to Tokyo and continue to document the current situation.  After a long discussion at dinner, during which the board members debated the pros and cons of suddenly cancelling my advertised appearance at the screenings (and during which my nerves did not allow me to eat), the board members decided to give me their blessing to return to Tokyo to attend the press conference and we agreed that I would take part in the post-screening discussion via video phone from outside the press conference directly after it was finished (explanation from the Nagano screening group HERE).

from the FB page of screening organizer Mr. Obata.
Back in Tokyo after leaving Nagano first thing Saturday the morning, we attended the press conference given by three organizing members of the 311 Thyroid Cancer Family Group, along with two fathers of Fukushima children who have developed thyroid cancer.  The fathers took part in the press conference in Tokyo via Skype from Fukushima, but they did not show their faces and their voices were electronically altered.  During the question period, Rei asked the fathers to talk about their need to hide their identities.  In response, one father expressed concern about discussing his child's thyroid cancer when there was not direct proof it was caused by exposure to radiation.  The other father spoke of his desire to protect his children's future and his fear of the possibility of some kind of repercussion or negative effect from speaking out.

Group founding member Dr. Ushiyama speaks
one of the fathers speaks at the press conference via Skype
My assistant, Rei, asks his question to the fathers
Journalists covering the press conference
Immediately after the press conference ended, we hurried to a Karaoke Bar near the venue, where we had rented a sound-proof Karaoke box from which I took part in the post-screening discussion of "In the Grey Zone" in Nagano via video phone.

The next day, we traveled to Fukushima, where a screening of my film 'A2-B-C' (WEBSITE) was being held in Sukagawa City in the beautiful (and delicious!) veggie restaurant Ginga No Hotori (screening INFO).

During the Q&A, I was delighted to be able to present a scene from my new film (the work-in-progress I screened in Germany in Ireland) featuring the decontamination activities of Fukushima fathers Mr. Suzuki and Mr. Murakami.  It was an honour to have them both in attendance at the screening and to hear from them directly about their activities.

The screening was a wonderful opportunity to see some familiar faces (including one who appeared in 'A2-B-C'!) as well as to meet some new supporters.

Photo from Suzuki Yohei

Friday, March 11, 2016

Five years.

Today marks five years since the March 11, 2011, triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.  As I travel this weekend to events and screenings marking this solemn anniversary, I reflect on the events of the past five years and on the sacred stories that have been shared with me by those who were most affected.


Originally posted last year on the 4th anniversary, I am re-posting below some of my early short documentaries and trailers about the 3.11 disasters.

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 with a list of other blogs I wrote for Discovery News listed at the bottom of THIS entry).  The full collection of my early short documentaries about the disaster is HERE.

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

I am currently finishing the follow-up to 'A2-B-C', in what will be the third film in my series about Fukushima, the work-in-progress of which I recently screened in Europe (STORY).  Thank you all so very much for your continued support and encouragement.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Progress in working

It was an honour to travel to Germany and Berlin over the past ten days to present two of my documentary films during events marking the 5th anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disaster in Japan.  The first of these was on February 27 in Berlin with a work-in-progress screening of my newest documentary at the international congress “5 years living with Fukushima - 30 years living with Chernobyl” sponsored by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (INFO).  This film is my third in my series about families with children living in Fukushima after "In the Grey Zone" (2012 WEBSITE) and "A2-B-C" (2013 WEBSITE).  IPPNW has screened my films before (HERE, for example) and also used my photographs in their publications (HERE, for example).

The congress in Berlin was an amazing opportunity to receive feedback about the film from medical professionals and specifically doctors who have extensive experience both working in and researching  heath effects after the nuclear disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima.  I will carry their feedback, questions, and comments from the post-screening Q&A led by Dr. Alex Rosen (photo below) with me as I prepare to lock picture, finish the film, and begin submissions.

After attending the congress in Berlin, I flew to Cork, Ireland, where I presented my films 'A2-B-C' and the work-in-progress of the newest film in the series, and gave a lecture (March 1 and 2 INFO).  This was at the generous invitation of professor Dr. Till Weingartner, whom I had first met three years ago when he was my "translator" at the world premier of 'A2-B-C' (photo and story HERE).  Dr. Weingartner is now a lecturer in Contemporary East Asian Studies at the University College Cork.


On March 3, we moved on to Dublin, where 'A2-B-C' was screened at the University of College Dublin with the support of the UCD Japanese Society and Experience Japan (INFO).  The pre-screening talk and post-screening Q&A were led by the UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice's Dr. Naonori Kodate (photo below).  It was an honour to screen before an audience of mostly young people and to hear their questions/ comments nearly five years after the disaster.

Taking a few days off from work at the end of the trip, I had an opportunity to explore a bit of Dublin and then to take the ferry over to North Wales, where I visited friends and the family grave.  

Freshly back from the trip, there is much to think about and reflect upon.  However, there is not much time to settle back in as these screenings were just the first in a series of events I will attend that are marking the 5th anniversary of the March 11, 2011, triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown; I leave tomorrow for domestic screening in Nagano and Fukushima.  Thank you all so very much for your support and encouragement over these five years.
Tokyo, Japan