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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Short films about the March 11th earthquake and tsunami @ Sapporo Film Fest 2012

For my final night in Sapporo, I decided to attend the Sapporo Film Festival's "AFTER 3.11" Special Programme screening. And what a fine screening it was to end my wonderful Sapporo experience.

This program is a compilation of short films related to the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami that happened in March 11th, 2011. I will recap them one by one, along with my thoughts.

I'm also surprised to see that a few of them are available online in their entirety, so I will share the links with you all.

1) THANK YOU WORLD サンキューワールド by Seiichi Hishikawa 菱川勢一

THANK YOU WORLD is an animated short video message made for last year's edition of Sapporo Film Fest.

This is the English version.

Thank you world. -English Version- from Seiichi Hishikawa on Vimeo.

And this is the Japanese version.

It's rather beautiful, isn't it?

2) Nihonmatsu and Oshiruko 二本松を知ること by Yuichiro Yamada 山田裕一郎

Nihonmatsu and Oshiruko (二本松を知ること) from Yuichiro Yamada on Vimeo.
Nihonmatsu, Fukushima is located at 34 miles away from Fukushima Nuclear Plant.

"Nihonmatsu and Oshiruko" is a short documentary filmed when people in Eniwa, Hokkaido(北海道恵庭市) visited in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima(福島県二本松市) to make an oshiruko (an Japanese traditional dessert) for the students in Nihonmatsu Kita Elementary School in March 7, 2012 which is a year after the Great East Japan Earthquake. When I visited in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima, people there told to me that it's difficult to tell their story and get the media attention even though they have many difficulties after the nuclear disaster. I hope this video helps you think about people in Fukushima once again.

-Yuichiro Yamada

Equipment :
Canon 7D
Sigma 30mm
Tamron 18-270
Zoom H4n
RODE lavalier mic
Zacuro Striker and Z-finder
Libec TH-650DV

One line that struck me was when one of the interviewees said, matter-of-factly, that they would be forgotten.

Watching this documentary allowed me the chance to see the faces of these people who are still courageously living their lives in Fukushima, I got to see them as the normal people they are. Fukushima had became a name used for countless fear-mongering and paranoia from those living in the rest of the world. The people of Fukushima are really being forgotten as human beings, they became statistics, they became horror stories, and I really resented that.

The rest of the world seemed to have pass them a death sentence, I always felt utterly offended when people ask me this: "hey, soooooo... is Japan safe now from radiation? Do you think I can visit one of these days? Tee hee hee!" It's an insult to the memories of these poeple, those who died, and also those who are had been trying so hard to move on with their lives and ensure that the children and the generations to come can just live life normally again like everyone else.

So yes, watch THIS video, and think about the people of Fukushima.

3) blossom ブロッサム by Yutaka Yamamoto 山本寛

Hm, sadly, I can't find a lot of information about this animated short. Except for the fact that it came out in March earlier this year, and was made for charity. Very beautiful artwork, but can only understand half of what was going on because of the lack of subtitles. :(

Can check out the official site here. Some of its artwork are available for download.

4) The Message from Fukushima 福島からのメッセージ by Hirokazu Koreeda 是枝 裕和

This documentary short revolves around Koreeda's interview with Mr. Yasuhiro Abe, the theater manager of Fukushima forum. This is quite a refreshing insight. When asked whether he remembered what film was screening in the theaters when the earthquake and tsunami happened, Abe said that it might have been "The King's Speech".

The lack of subtitles made me struggle to understand the short again. Aside from the interview, the filmmakers went to different places in Fukushima, and I was awed by how beautiful the place was when covered in snow.

This is Koreeda's statement.




3月1日 是枝裕和

My (very bad and probably inaccurate) translation is:

I want to hear the voices of those who are still living in Fukushima. That is my stance when I made this documentary with the theater manager of Fukushima Forum, Yasuhiro Abe.

Through his eyes, I learn why he chose not to live with his family, the soundless telephone booths, and finally, why he has to continue showing films in the cinema.

I went to the evacuated Iitate village (near the nuclear plant), and happened to admire the setting sun. I wondered repeatedly whether film can capture its beauty.

1st of March, Hirokazu Koreeda

5) 663114 by Isamu Hirabayashi 平林勇

Having seen a number of Isamu Hirabayashi's short films, (although we never met personally, I actually met his crew members in Cannes when his short film Shikasha was screened at the Director's Fortnight the same year as The Tiger Factory, 2 years ago) I was already quite curious about the Noburo Ofuji award-winning 663114 ever since it was screened at Venice Film Festival last year.

Visually unique, and strangely poetic, just like some of his previous works.

Cathy Munroe Hotes review of the film describes it best.

The title looks like a code, but it is actually a collection of significant numbers. The Fukushima disaster occurred 66 years after the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 3/11 marks the date of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and 4 are the number of reactors that were damaged at Fukushima Daiichi.

On the surface, 663114, is a simple, straightforward animation, but upon closer examination one finds that it has as many layers as a tree has rings. An ancient cicada crawls slowly up a vertical surface, which we learn through the first person narration is representative of a tree. The tree’s surface is decorated with inkan (印鑑), the familiar red stamps that are used in lieu of signatures in Japan. The cicada tells us that he is 66 years old, born the film implies, at the time of the atom bomb.

In addition to being spoken aloud in a deep, guttural, masculine voice, the narration also appears in shaky, black handwritten English:

Once every 66 years,
I emerge from the ground, leave offspring and die.
Before mating,
I shed my hard shell at the risk of my life.
Our ancestors have continued this cycle countless times.
The soil of this country is very fit for us to live in.
It is free of strong pesticides and there are no landmines.
The water is delicious so the sap is delicious as well.
I will climb as high as I can.
Aiming higher and higher.
It is our natural instinct.
To survive and leave offspring.
Since the moment of shedding skin is life risking.
We choose a tree that is tall, sturdy and won’t shake that much.
Our ancestors have continued this cycle countless times.
Through the various hardships.

6) Saigo no Omimai 最後のお見舞い - Last Visit by Jyrki Rantasuo ユルキ・ランタスオ

A 3-minute documentary that brought us back to reality again, this one is of a woman going to the disaster-hit areas to search for her lost family members. Her grandmother was washed away by the tsunami when in the hospital. Her body was never found.

7) Cans of Hope 缶闘記 by Hirokazu Kishida 岸田浩和

This is a documentary that, again, reflected the resilience of the Japanese people that I had loved and admired. It chronicles the paths taken by the Kinoya Ishinomaki Suisan (a sardine fish can manufacturing company) after their town of Ishinomaki was hit by tsunami. Some of the images here are very vivid and long after the screening, they continue to haunt me. For example, the film screening projected upon walls, or a makeshift tent used by the 7-11 convenience store where its employees are still standing behind counters dressed in their uniforms.

I was truly affected by the warmth of this documentary, which took the director 10 months to make. (I spoke to him briefly after the screening)

The entire film is here, please share it too.

8) The Tsunami and Cherry Blossom 津波そして桜 by Lucy Walker ルーシー・ウォーカー

The Oscar-nominated 40-minute documentary short The Tsunami and Cherry Blossom by Lucy Walker was used to close this screening.

This is the trailer.

This short film revisits the themes examined by the other shorts in the program, serving as a summation, as a reminder.

In this episode of BRING YOUR OWN DOC (well, the first half of the episode anyway), we have Lucy Walker discussing about the making of The Tsunami and Cherry Blossom.

Each of the short films, because of the subject matter, were powerful, breathtaking experiences. When the lights came up, I realized that, once again, this is a screening that I really didn't want to forget.