Thursday, October 8, 2015

Little Voices from Fukushima (orig: Chiisaki koe no kanon: sentakusuru hitobito) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing

Director's website*

Kyoto Journal - interview w. director Worldview - radio interview w. director - article about making of the film* viewer review* Japanese viewer comments

Little Voices from Fukushima (orig: Chiisaki koe no kanon: sentakusuru hitobito) [2015] (directed by Hitomi Kamanaka [IMDb]) is a locally (Japanese) made documentary about the residents of the Fukushima prefecture in these years following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster [wikip] [Green Peace] as well the grassroots, often women's / mothers', organizations that have sprung-up in the area to provide support / practical assistance to families with young children who need it.   These grassroots mothers' organizations now often press (as yet not particularly successfully) Japanese authorities, both local / national, for information regarding the continuing health effects of the nuclear disaster which was by far the worst since the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl and arguably EVEN WORSE than that one (as only one reactor melted down / exploded in Chrenobyl while ALL FOUR did so at Fukushima...).

The documentary recently screened here at the University of Chicago.

Indeed, the middle third of the documentary featured an extended visit to Belarus to recall both the  emergency and long-term (to this day) responses of Belarus / Ukraine to the Chernobyl Disaster : Hundreds of towns / villages in the zone(s) most contaminated by the disaster were evacuated and remain so to this day.  Further the State, along with a world-wide network of NGOs, continue to provide annual all-expense-paid "recuperative vacations" for children/teens living in less but still contaminated areas designed to (in as much as possible) cleanse their bodies of the radioactive materials that accumulate inside them through diet / exposure during the rest of the year (tt apparently works: after a month living outside of the "radioactive zones" the radioactive content in the kids' urine decreases by as much as 80%...).

It was noted that following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, Japan('s government) sent medical advisers to Belarus/Ukraine promoting these measures (and that there were Japanese NGOs housing "Chernobyl Kids" each summer to allow them "to get away" / from the zone of _that_ disaster).  Yet, since the 2011 Fukushima Disaster, Japan's government, both locally and nationally, has tried very hard to discourage evacuation (unless absolutely necessary), actively promoted (through financial incentives) _return_ to previously evacuated areas, and as yet offered NOTHING with regards to giving kids/teens the opportunity to at least get away from the effected zones.  (The director, present at the screening, laughed noting that "this is because Japan is a 'democracy' and hence Japan's big corporations can pressure government officials to minimize the disaster's effects / dangers).

So what are the dangers?  Well, the incidence of thyroid cancer in children growing-up near the Fukushima site has gone up 20-50 FOLD since the disaster, even as government officials have (somewhat absurdly) argued that "it can't be proven" that the Fukushima nuclear disaster was the cause.  Further, at least one Japanese pediatrician, Dr. Shigeru Mita, has begged parents to move their kids out of Tokyo (!) noting that since the 2011 disaster, city-wide, the white blood cell count in children in Tokyo has decreased below the lower limit of what used to be considered its normal range.  (Note that the documentary clearly shows at the radioactive plume from the Fukushima Plant did go over Tokyo in the days following the disaster).  There have also been local public health officials working on the effects of the radioactive fallout who have died (committed suicide) in the years following the disaster. 

It all makes for a story worth following and with some urgency.  Further in the discussion following the screening, it was noted that the perspective -- that of women and children, filmed by a woman director -- was fascinating from a Japanese perspective (where men, usually powerful men, are the only ones whose opinions are generally considered as mattering). 

At minimum, the documentary, currently making the rounds in the U.S., keeps the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster [wikip] [Green Peace] and its aftereffects in our consciousness, which I do believe that this is a good thing.  The effects of radioactive release like that one are going to play-out over a long, long time.

Good job!

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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