Japanese disaster films highlight victims’ stories via The Asahi Shimbun


The outburst of post-disaster filmmaking includes Americans living in or visiting Japan, such as “Surviving Japan,” by Christopher Noland, “Pray for Japan,” by Stuart Levy and “In the Grey Zone” and “A2” by Ian Thomas Ash.

“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” by Lucy Walker, a Briton, was nominated for the 2012 Academy Award in short documentaries.

Both Levy and Noland volunteered in the disaster areas. Ash’s documentaries focus on the plight of the children, who continue to live near the nuclear plant, and the frightened mothers who suspect the medical authorities are lying about the safety of radiation.


Funahashi’s “Nuclear Nation,” shown at film festivals including Berlin, Seoul and Edinburgh, Scotland, intentionally played out its scenes in real time to communicate the helplessness of the days slipping away for displaced people. Camera close-ups show the cold lunches in boxes being handed out, day by day.

Funahashi is outraged that, so many months later, the Japanese government has yet to properly compensate the 160,000 people who had to leave their homes near Fukushima plant. The government has set up tiny temporary housing and has doled out aid calculated to approximate the minimum wage.

In one moving scene in “Nuclear Nation,” one of the displaced residents, Masayoshi Watanabe, lights up a cigarette in a car and talks directly into the camera, strangely more movie-like than any Hollywood actor.

“Our town is gone. It’s just land,” he says pensively.

The movie started with 1,400 people in the school building, but that has dwindled lately to about 100. Funahashi is determined to keep filming until the last person leaves.

“The evacuated people are being forgotten,” said Funahashi. “And criminal responsibility is also being forgotten.”

Reputed director Sion Sono has also written and directed the sarcastically titled “The Land of Hope,” departing from his usual ruthlessly violent avant-garde for a soap-operatic account of an elderly couple who commit suicide after a nuclear catastrophe set in the fictitious future.



“Nuclear Nation” official site: http://nuclearnation.jp/en/

“Surviving Japan” official site: http://survivingjapanmovie.com/

“Pray for Japan” official site: http://prayforjapan-film.org/

Ian Thomas Ash: http://www.documentingian.com/

“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” official site: http://thetsunamiandthecherryblossom.com/

“The Land of Hope” trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPv3BX39dPk

“Himizu” official site: http://thirdwindowfilms.com/films/himizu

“Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape” official site: http://www.somakanka.com/eng.html

“Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape” trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMeMk38tyrs

“Kalina’s Apple, Forest of Chernobyl” http://kalina-movie.com/

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