Monday, March 02, 2015

Documenting the March 11 disaster: four years on

It is hard to believe that the 4th Anniversary of the March 11 disaster, known here in Japan simply as "3.11", is approaching.

4th anniversary screenings of 'A2-B-C'

Over the next week and a half leading up to the anniversary, there are several international screenings of my documentary 'A2-B-C'  (website ENGLISH/ 日本語), including:
  • Germany in Arnoldshain (March 3) and Dortmund (March 11)
  • USA in San Diego (March 8), Kailua Kona (March 10) and U. of Hawai’i (March 11)
  • Canada in Vancouver (March 11)
  • New Zealand in Otago (March 13)
full list and links HERE
There are also domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C' being held all over Japan (国内上映スケージュルここ).  Yesterday was the first of these screenings, and it was not without controversy: I had to make the decision to cancel what would have been the first public screening of the film in Fukushima City just days before the event was to take place (story below).

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.  The full collection of my early short documentaries about the disaster is HERE and all of the guest blogs I wrote for Discovery News can be found HERE.

3.11 changed the lives of so many people, including my own:

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

In between the continuing international and domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C', I am currently filming the follow-up to 'A2-B-C', in what will be the third film in my series about Fukushima.  Thank you all so very much for your continued support and encouragement.


First public screening of 'A2-B-C' in Fukushima City cancelled

Although the first public screening of 'A2-B-C' in Fukushima City was scheduled for yesterday, after careful consideration, I made the decision to cancel the screening late last week (「A2-B-C」の福島上映が已む無き事情により、中止となりました。ここ).  There were many factors that impacted my decision to cancel the screening on such short notice, and these included my feeling that the film could be shown safely and freely in Fukushima while both protecting the people in the film and those in attendance at the screening.  The fact that it was general consensus among the team and the screening organizers that this film about Fukushima could not be screened in Fukushima at this time says more about the current problems in Fukushima than the film itself.  Silence speaks louder than words.

The event in Fukushima, arranged by Watanabe Kazumi from NPO Mommy's Tummy (who has organized screenings of the film before like THESE ones in Kyushu), still took place.  A film about Chernobyl was screened in place of 'A2-B-C', and this was followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Konta (GP) and Dr. Kobayashi (psychiatrist) with whom I have been filming and presenting occasionally over the last year (STORY).

Yesterday's event began with me apologizing for the sudden change of program and accepting responsibility for the cancellation.  Not knowing what kind of situation I would be walking into, I had felt sick to my stomach all morning.  Interestingly, no one seemed surprised that the film could not be shown, and I felt something that seemed like relief in the room when the announcement was made.  Or was that just me...

After the event in Fukushima, we all headed for the city of Sendai, the epicenter of the 3.11 earthquake, where 'A2-B-C' was screened so successfully that after the stress of having to cancel the screening in Fukushima it was almost surreal.

One of the scariest parts of the current situation in Fukushima is a thickening atmosphere of not being able to speak out, or share one's thoughts, or have a healthy debate.  Self-censorship is endemic.  And silence, like radiation, can be an invisible killer.

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