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[Full Text] “Rokkasho, Minamata and Japan’s Future: Capturing Humanity on Film”

Rokkasho, Minamata and Japan’s Future: Capturing Humanity on Film (Kamanaka Hitomi, Tsuchimoto Noriaki and Norma Field)

In this first decade of the twenty-first century, nuclear weapons and nuclear power have returned to haunt us with a vengeance. In fact, they had never disappeared, of course, but the end of the Cold War and a hiatus in the construction of nuclear power plants—owing much to citizen activism, let us recall—lulled many of us into putting these concerns on the backburner. Now, thanks to 9.11 and newly visible U.S. bellicosity, nuclear weapons are beginning to resume their rightful place high on the list of worries about the planet and the species. And, in an irony that would be comical were its implications not dire, global warming itself has prompted endorsement of nuclear power as a source of clean energy. President George W. Bush has proposed a Global Nuclear Energy Partnership that entails the reprocessing of radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants, with plutonium and uranium extracted and remade into nuclear fuel for a new type of reactor that has yet to be constructed. This is a plan that was abandoned by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 because of concerns about safety and nuclear proliferation. [1]

It is just such a reprocessing plant, completed in Rokkasho Village in northern Japan, that is the focus of documentarist Kamanaka Hitomi’s new film, Rokkasho Rhapsody. Given that her previous film was Hibakusha at the End of the World (2003), Kamanaka’s trajectory reflects precisely the renewed urgency of nuclear weaponry and nuclear power for the citizens of the world. In the earlier film “hibakusha,” meaning victims of radiation poisoning, is used to refer to all such victims, not just those produced by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the film, they are the leukemia-afflicted children of Iraq, the downwinders of the plutonium plant in Hanford, Washington, as well as Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. Kamanaka belongs to a generation for which the latter do not have the immediacy they once had. She came to her own relationship to them through Iraq: from work filming children devastated by the Gulf War, which led to growing knowledge about the impact of depleted uranium (DU). And from there, she began to turn her attention to the role of nuclear power plants in Japan, the United States and elsewhere.

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