Project Fukushima

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Q&A with festival organizer Otomo Yoshihide

Just five months after the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, a group of Japanese artists and musicians including Otomo Yoshihide held an arts festival in the city of Fukushima. They called their festival simply “Fukushima!” without any qualifying slogans or descriptions, aiming to counter the negative associations the name had taken on in the wake of the nuclear accident. Though little-known outside Japan until now, the festival was a success: 13,000 people were in attendance and an additional 25,000 viewed streaming coverage of the festival online.

Featuring music and poetry by Otomo Yoshihide, Michiro Endo, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ryoichi Wago and others, this 2012 documentary film matter-of-factly follows their preparations leading up to the festival as well as the day of the festival itself and a few months afterwards. Three years on from the earthquake and tsunami, the film serves as a reminder of the new reality that faces Fukushima residents following the nuclear accident. With an artistic documentary approach, the film reveals more universal themes as well in chronicling the group of artists' highly unique response to the disaster.

Theirs was not a typical festival since the organizers had to address questions such as: Would it be ethical to bring people to Fukushima? What about children? And what would it mean to the people of Fukushima if the festival had to be called off after all due to radiation concerns? Throughout the movie we see how the lives of people in Fukushima have changed and what the future might look like for the next few generations. In their organization and hosting of the festival we see reflected the new realities of daily life in Fukushima as well as a humble but strong dedication to building a brighter future. The film chronicles their efforts with artful simplicity to deliver an important lesson for all of us.
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By: Northwest Film Forum

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