SCRIPT: This Japanese film almost never saw the light of day. “The House of the Rising Sun” tells the story of a family torn apart by a nuclear disaster. A subject so sensitive in Japan that the director found it impossible to finance his project through conventional means. But the groundswell of anti-nuclear feeling following the Fukushima disaster persuaded Takafumi Ota to turn to the public. He raised 100,000 dollars through crowd-sourcing – and the film’s now being screened in independent cinemas.
SOUNDBITE 1 – Takafumi Ota (man), Director of “The house of the rising sun” (Japanese, 16 sec): “The media talks less and less about the problem of nuclear refugees. I asked myself what I could do as a director. I decided to make a film to voice the message that newspapers and televisions don’t.” Three years after the Fukushima disaster and the anti-nuclear demonstrations are waning. The Japanese media barely give them any airtime – even if surveys show most people are still against the industry.
Japan director turns to crowdfunding for anti-nuclear film / Tokyo (Japan) – 30 November 2013 11:19 – AFP / FEATURE Japanese film director Takafumi Ota had a problem. He needed studio financing for a film that was harshly critical of the nuclear industry in the aftermath of Fukushima, but no one was interested in funding his project the traditional way. Large sections of Japan’s movie industry wanted nothing to do with it, and he was told that influential sponsors did not want to be associated with anything that criticised the powerful atomic sector. “It wasn’t only major film distribution companies but also DVD companies — who usually get interested in investing in films to share copyright — who showed no interest in my plan,” said the 52-year-old Ota, whose previous work includes the critically acclaimed 2006 film “Strawberry fields”, which screened at the Cannes International Film Festival. “A senior film director told me ‘Don’t do this. You’ll never be able to make commercial films.’” With few options to make the film, but a groundswell of anti-nuclear feeling in post-Fukushima Japan, Ota turned to the public to make his film in another example of how crowdfunding is changing the face of traditional financing.
The practice sees individuals or firms raise micro-donations from small investors over the Internet. While still small, the market has been booming, with companies such as the pioneering KickStarter offering donation-based funding for creative projects. Globally, the crowdfunding market grew 81 percent last year and was on track to raise $5.1 billion in 2013, with investments in everything from business startups and philanthropic projects to films and music, according to research firm Massolution.
For Ota, raising money through his blog from a public suspicious of the nuclear industry got him the crucial 10 million yen ($100,000) that he needed to make “Asahi No Ataru Ie” (The House of Rising Sun), a film about a family pulled apart by a Fukushima-like nuclear crisis. Each donor was offered the chance to see their name on the credits. “The 10 million yen budget is extremely low for a feature-length film, but actors and other staff got on-board despite low salaries,” Ota said. Careers on the line Among them was Taro Yamamoto, a 39-year-old actor who is a household name in Japan thanks to his appearances in movies, television dramas and on variety shows.
Yamamoto, who became an outspoken lawmaker following last year’s national elections, began campaigning against nuclear power weeks after the nuclear crisis erupted in March 2011, hoping he could use his fame to bring further attention to the issue. But he suddenly found the oxygen of publicity — and the source of his salary — cut off. “Job offers dried up,” Yamamoto said. “Whenever my name was mentioned, sales department people pressured” producers to drop him from a cast, he told AFP. Ota’s film tells the story of a farming family whose lives are turned upside down in a chaotic and badly-managed evacuation after a nuclear accident, where government information is scarce or unreliable.
Read more at A Japanese Director Takes on the ‘Nuclear Lobby’
The film’s official website is: http://asahinoataruie.jp/english.html