Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Nuclear Nation: Refugees from Fukushima
is not as if Japan had not taken precautions. However, the combination of the
earthquake, tsunami, and the reactor malfunctions in Fukushima created a
uniquely tragic set of circumstances that amplified each other. For instance, there were storm walls responsibly
placed to protect coastal communities, but the tectonic activity lowered them
below the level of the incoming storm surge.
Yet, for many of the evacuated citizens of Futaba, concerns about the
power plant that once provided their livelihood trump fears of future natural
disasters. Atsushi Funahashi documents the
Futaba refugees as they cope with post-disaster realities with dignity and
resilience in Nuclear Nation (trailer here), which opens
today at Film Forum.
to Mayor Katsutaka Igogawa’s decisive early evacuation, the town of Futaba has
a high survival rate. Still, he carries
a heavy burden. The events of March 2011
left most of his citizens destitute, with questionable prospects for the
future. Nevertheless, as Funahashi
documents the months they spend in their makeshift shelter, a converted high
school outside of Tokyo, residents slowly but surely move into to more
permanent quarters and haltingly pursue closure.
reliant on the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s plant, Igogawa has since turned
against Japan’s nuclear policies. Futaba’s
relationship with Tepco was already complex.
Once flush with nuclear subsidies, the small town embarked binged on
ambitious public works projects, but has fallen deeply into arrears in recent
years (just how this is the fault of the power company or the national government
is never exactly explained). To get back
in the black, Futaba agreed to host two more reactors, but those will never
come to pass now.
Nation is strong on
human interest and weak on energy policy.
The experiences of survivors, like the father and teen-aged son mourning
his lost mother, are quite moving. There
are a host of small, touching moments in the film, as when a class of early
elementary school girls ask the Mayor when they can go home.
Japan’s decision to largely turn off the nuclear switch (which Funahashi obviously
agrees with, given his editorial choices) has cost it mightily in terms of its
international balance of payments and energy dependency. A small country like Japan simply does not
have a lot of coal stockpiled, so it now imports massive quantities of fossil
fuels, thereby increasing global carbon emissions. Despite sensationalistic
headlines regarding radiation readings inside the plant, it is a different story outside the containment walls. In
fact, Funahashi includes several ostensibly ironic scenes of the green bucolic countryside
throughout the Fukushima district.
Although Funahashi clearly gained intimate
access to the daily lives of the Futaba survivors, Nation never feels voyeuristic or exploitative, which is a neat
trick to pull off. It is also a timely
reminder that much rebuilding remains to be done (it is also worth noting the
Japan Society is still accepting donations for its recovery fund). Recommended for its humanity rather than its
policy advocacy, Nuclear Nation opens
today (12/11) at New York’s Film Forum.
Labels: Documentary, Japanese Cinema