blue fish Japanese Environmental
Documentary Film Festival

November- December  2017

The earth is breathing; so are humans. This fall, between October 1 and November 19, the Nightingale Cinema presents Japanese environmental documentaries to reflect upon humans’ relationship with nature. The films introduce the lives of people such as fishermen and farmers of Iwai-shima island who have been protesting against and stopping the construction of a nuclear power plant since 1982, as well as organic farmers in Fukushima who have been going through the aftermath of the 2012 nuclear power plant accident. This festival will expand the knowledge of Chicago’s urban audiences about global environmental issues and synchronize contemporary concerns about the planet through the lens of the not-so-Far East.

Film Description and Director Biographies

Sunday, October 1 at 7 pm: ASHES TO HONEY by Hitomi Kamanaka
Since 1982, the people of Iwaishima, a small island in the Inland Sea of Japan, have been opposing the construction of a nuclear power plant that would endanger the beautiful waters around them. The fishermen and villagers of the island support themselves by their labor on land and sea. And the youngest, Takashi Yamato, also hopes to make the island self-sufficient in energy. But economic and political power are on the side of those who support construction of the nuclear plant. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Sweden has committed to abandoning oil- and nuclear-based energy. It is steadily shifting to renewable sources of energy as it moves toward a sustainable society. How can we choose and create our own energy sources? The feelings and thoughts of ordinary people can join across national borders to create a new vision. Here, today, people are starting to create their own future. We can hear the hum of their activity, like the buzz of bees creating energy in tune with nature.

Hitomi Kamanaka, born in 1958, is an award-winning Japanese documentary filmmaker known particularly for her films on nuclear power and radiation. She graduated from Waseda University in 1984, and shot her first film “Uncle Suecha” with the fellowship from the Japanese Culture Agency in 1990. Between 1990 and 1995, she studied at the National Film Board of Canada. She then worked as a media activist at Paper Tiger in New York. Returning to Japan, she worked as a freelance director for television and film. Her 4th film “Hibakusha—At the End of the World “(2003) was screened at more than 400 places and won several awards, including one from the Agency for Cultural Affairs for excellence in documentary. In 2006, “Rokkasho Rhapsody”(2006), covered the problems surrounding the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, was internationally screened at more than 650 places. “Ashes to Honey” has been screened over 400 times in Japan since its release in May, 2010 which opened in theaters only a month before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Her latest film is “Little Voices from Fukushima”  is about mothers living in Fukushima and making everyday choices for their children from what to eat to where to play. She has been building up grassroots movement, with showing her films not just letting them go home but getting them involved by discussions.

Sunday, October 15 at 7 pm: HOLY ISLAND by Aya Hanabusa
There is a small island where agriculture was brought 1000 years ago as the residents rescued people from a wrecked ship. The island became prosperous and the culture of the island has been handed down from generation to generation. Iwaishima Island, Kaminoseki city, Yamaguchi Prefecture: In this island in Seto Inland Sea with about 500 people, the residents have been living by helping each other and sharing things among them as it was necessary for them to live in the harsh natural environment. Drinkable water is limited in this rocky island, which is often attacked by typhoons. The people, however, have lived by acquiring fish and other resources from the sea and by cultivating rocky mountains to create rice fields. You can see clearly in this island that human activities are part of nature’s cycles.

In 1982, a project of constructing a nuclear power plant in Tanoura, on the opposite shore about 3.5 kilometers from Iwaishima Island, was surfaced. The people here have been opposing to the project, saying “We can live as long as we have mountains and the sea. We cannot sell the sea during our generation.” People in Iwaishima live by taking into account of the future generations. A nuclear power station is built in a society that pursues efficiency and profits in the present life. This difference in values and a conflict between them are seen in everywhere in Japan. Considering the life in 1000 years is a succession of our current life, it seems clear what we should choose. This film depicts the islanders’ life that is handed down to the future generations.

Aya Hanabusa, born in Tokyo in 1974, is an award-winning filmmaker and graduated from Jiyugakuen University in 1994. She worked for Seiichi Motohashi, a photographer and a documentary film director, in producing and distributing films. After working as a producer of a film, “Namii to Utaeba (Singing with Nami)” in 2006, she directed this film for the first time. She established Yashiho Films Inc. and continues to capture exceptional lives of ordinary people. http://yashihofilms.com

Sunday, November 5 at 6:30 pm: UNCANNY TERRAIN by Chicago-based filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski (with Post-screening talk)
Uncanny Terrain is a documentary series about farmers in Fukushima, Japan, fighting to continue growing organic food on land contaminated by fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Screening three episodes:
84-year old Teruo Yasukawa is the only farmer growing rice in Minamisoma, Japan, where authorities imposed a growing ban over fears of contamination from the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, 20 km away.

Seji Sugeno fights to keep alive his village of Towa in the foothills of Fukushima, as farms fail amid fears of radioactive fallout and Sugeno worries for the health of his daughter Mizuho, who is poised to take over his farm.

Born in the Tokyo suburbs, Akihiro Asami is one of the only farmers in the tiny mountain village of Wasetani, on the outskirts of Fukushima, where trace amounts of contamination from 2011’s nuclear meltdown compound existing issues with an aging population and struggling economy. Asami’s wife Harumi and two young daughters evacuated in the wake of the meltdown, but returned a year later, choosing the health risk over the alienation of living as an evacuee. They’re working to build a sustainable community with their neighbors, rooted in traditional farming and artisanal practices that utilize the area’s rich natural resources. In 2014, Akihiro runs for mayor of the surrounding city of Kitakata, calling for a complete transformation of the local economy based on the principles he practices as an organic farmer.

Filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski co-directed the fiction feature film The First Breath of Tengan Rei and the short film Homesick Blues.  They have been key members of the production team on films including Anguish, Hannah Free, and Street Thief.

Sunday, November 19 at 7 pm: The Ocean’s Blessing by Masayuki Tōjō
This is a story of life. To retrieve all the connections of life with mother earth, we see the key for our way of living for the post-3.11 nuclear disaster. “The Earth, a planet of miracles. Everyday, a new story of life begins here. A midwife with a career of over 70 years told me about the ‘baton of life’ being passed through the generations over the history of life on earth. Her story became the signpost to the peaceful world that ‘I’ seek out. I was interested in the issue of global poverty in college. How can everyone live peacefully on the earth? While traveling around the world, I realized that my own lifestyle is closely connected with such issues. I decided to visit a Japanese family who runs a sustainable farm which also produces salt. Their lives are so closely dependent on the land and sea. Around the same time, I became aware of the island of Iwai-shima, which sits on the inland sea, Setonai-kai, in Yamaguchi prefecture. Supported by abundant sea harvests, there is a local spirit of cooperation. On it’s opposite shore, a new nuclear power plant construction plan has been under preparation since 1982. The islanders rally under the defiant slogan – ‘We cannot sell the ocean for money.’ I started to commute to the island and experience the life which they are trying to protect and seems somehow nostalgic to me. My search for a sustainable lifestlye became more urgent on March 11th, 2011, when an unprecedented earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear accident hit Fukushima, Japan. I embarked on a journey from Iwai-shima to Fukushima. What is a peaceful world that mutually supports each other for a sustainable life, which ‘I’ began to perceive through the journey?”

Masayuki Tōjō – Director  Born in Osaka in 1984, Tōjō graduated from the Department of Agriculture, Hokkaido University. Facing with the fact that one in every seven people is suffering from the hunger, Tōjō comes to aim at the world where everybody can live in peaceful happiness. At the age of 22, he has travelled to over 10 countries in Asia and Africa and realized the world is a big “treasure island.” In 2009, he lived in “Hyakusho An (A Simple Farmhouse)” in Yamaguchi prefecture and learned from a family, who live in a sustainable farm producing sea salt. Around the same time, he visited a small island called “Iwai-shima” located among the islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. While being impressed by the local people’s life co-existing with a rich nature, he learned about the new nuclear power plant project in an opposite shore. Then he started to film the reclamation of thE  seashore .by the Chugoku Electric Company preparing to build a new nuclear power plant. Since 2011, after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear accident in Fukushima, he visited Fukushima and decided to produce a documentary film about life. He took over 4 years to complete the film.  In the hope of the world where all the lives can respect each other’s life, he continues to show the film and seeks a life in harmony with nature.

Program Details:
Admission: Adults $10; Seniors/Students $8; Children (6-12) $5; Children under 5 Free
Adult Festival Pass $35 (please purchase on the first day of the festival; good for all four days)

Curator Biography
Ayako Kato is an award-winning Japanese native and Chicago-based dancer, choreographer, improviser, teacher, and curator. Since 1998, she has been an artistic director of Ayako Kato/Art Union Humanscape (AUH) and has presented and performed her works extensively in the United States, Japan, and Europe. In 2016, she received a 3Arts Award in Dance, Meier Achievement Award, and was named Top 5 Choreographers of Chicago by Newcity Stage. In April 2017, she premiered her solo full-evening dance work blue fish that reflects upon humanity’s relationship with nature through the perspective of an anonymous single life. She dedicates this film festival to all the people who have been maintaining and in action to establish our tie with moving nature. www.artunionhumanscape.net

Filed under: artist in attendance, Asian, documentary, environmental, international