“Taiyo no Futa” (The Seal of the Sun) goes to great lengths to recreate the tense and chaotic days of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, providing a perspective on what happened in the prime minister’s office.
The movie faithfully recounts the catastrophe, using an enormous volume of reports and interviews with politicians and government officials dealing with the crisis as its source material.
In a rare move in Japanese cinema, the 130-minute film is based closely on actual events and people involved, featuring characterizations of the real-life Cabinet members at the time.
The story unfolds from the viewpoint of a political reporter (played by Yukiya Kitamura) struggling to uncover the truth behind the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan is played by Kunihiko Mitamura, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano by Daikichi Sugawara, and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama by Yu Kamio, respectively.
It took more than a year to complete the screenplay, Otsuka said.
The story shows the Cabinet members as they experience a sudden, strong jolt. It is followed by an enormous tsunami that causes a total loss of power, a failure of the cooling systems, the ensuing hydrogen explosions at the nuclear plant and charged debate over the withdrawal of workers from the plant.
Amid conflicting reports about the situation, each episode is vividly represented, exposing an absence of meaningful communication between the prime minister’s office and TEPCO.
Meanwhile, the film also portrays the life of ordinary people, including the reporter’s wife, who raises a small child in Tokyo, a young nuclear power plant worker in Fukushima and his family. These characters were created based on stories gathered from several people to shed light on anxieties and situation of conflict that must have been experienced by a lot of people at the time, drawing sympathy from the audience.
The movie was directed by Futoshi Sato based on a screenplay written by Takashi Hasegawa.
“None of us are journalists or socially minded citizens, but that was why we wanted to make the movie with some sort of an entertainment element so that the public will find it accessible,” Otsuka said.
However, the production team kept in mind to present real-life events, especially what was happening in the prime minister’s office, as faithfully as possible.
“It is easier to make a drama out of a conflict situation, but the reality is not that simple,” the producer added. “In fact, the film offers a perspective on a battle between humanity and the nuclear power plant, in a way. I hope it provides an opportunity to get an overview of what was happening at the time again and reflect.”