by Staff Writers
Busan, South Korea (AFP) Oct 8, 2011
Filming grieving survivors of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan often earned producer Takaharu Yasuoka a shocked and angry response. Now he wants audiences to react the same way.
"311" follows four documentary filmmakers -- Yasuoka, the film's director Tatsuya Mori and their friends Takeharu Watai and Yoju Matsubayashi -- as they head into the devastated areas of northeastern Japan after the massive quake.
Like the rest of the world, the group watched on as the disaster played out live on television.
"Once the disaster happened we talked to each other and we knew we had to get up there and record what had happened," said Mori, speaking after the film's world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.
"We had no idea whether we would turn it into a film now, a year later, or make four different films."
From the eerie silence of the evacuated landscape near the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the filmmakers head to what remains of the towns and villages near the coast, witnessing and capturing on film not only the physical devastation but the very human cost of the tragedy.
Survivors often act with a mixture of horror and fury when they see the cameras capturing their grief and Mori said the team was constantly forced to question just what they were doing -- documenting or intruding.
"We felt we had a duty to record what had happened and there is certainly a degree of egoism to filmmaking," said Mori.
"But we were constantly asking ourselves how do we approach this, what do we do to help those who survived and those who are dead? In the end I think that became the theme of the whole film -- how do we react to such a thing?"
Yasuoka said he wanted audiences to feel the same sense of anger as the survivors.
"Thats how we want them to react, at first," said Yasuoka. "We want them to question why we made this movie, why we were there."
"311", one of the first independently made documentaries to hit the international festival circuit, is nothing less than a challenging experience for its audience.
The sheer scale of the tragedy is played out in full view, from bodies laid out on the bare earth to the affected families desperate search through the rubble for survivors.
"Mostly we found they were a very calm people," said Yasuoka. "It was a natural disaster so they just accepted it as there was nowhere to direct their anger."
The filmmakers also had to face first-hand the confusion that surrounded the immediate aftermath of the event and the lack of information about just how much danger still existed due to the damage sustained by the Fukushima plant.
They initially entered the area with little or no protection against -- or even knowledge about -- the extent of radioactive contamination.
"Part of the problem is that we Japanese are too polite," said Mori. "The government told people to stay away and they did -- even the mainstream media. But sometimes you have to ask questions, no matter what the risk. So the actual effects of what happened are still unknown."
Producer Yasuoka, who edited down the hours of raw film the group had collected, believes the actual scale of the disaster is something Japan is still coming to terms with.
"I can assure you there will be more documentaries about what the actual effects of this disaster are coming out over the next five to 10 years," he said.
"311" is screening as part of the Wide Angle documentary showcase at the 16th Busan International Film Festival, Asias leading cinematic event, which continues until Friday.
This year's edition of the festival is screening 307 films, among them 135 world or international premieres.
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The waste from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami
Tokyo, Japan (SPX) Oct 07, 2011
On 11 March 2011 there was a legal vacuum in Japan concerning radioactive waste resulting from a nuclear disaster. Current waste management Law places technical and financial responsibility for waste from natural disasters with local authorities. However, this excludes radioactive waste. The Law on rehabilitation of contaminated soil excludes from its scope radioactive soils and waste. The ... read more
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