Film focuses on ‘irradiated’ cattle kept alive in Fukushima — The Asahi Shimbun

” OSAKA–For some cattle farmers in Fukushima Prefecture, the thought of destroying their herds is too painful to bear even if they are contaminated with radioactive fallout.

A new documentary to be shown here this week records the plight of these farmers, who continue to look after their beef cattle in defiance of a government request to euthanize the animals.

“I took on this project because I wanted to capture what is driving farmers to keep their cattle. For all the trouble it is worth, the animals are now worthless,” said Tamotsu Matsubara, a visual director who shot the documentary.

Four years in the making, “Hibaku-ushi to Ikiru” (Living with irradiated cattle) is set for its first screening on Aug. 26 at a local community center in the city.

Matsubara’s interactions with the cattle farmers date to the summer of 2011, a few months after the nuclear crisis unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that year. His assignment was to cover a traditional festival in Minami-Soma, which is located near the stricken nuclear plant.

Matsubara, 57, became acquainted with a farmer caring for more than 300 cattle on his land in the 20-kilometer no-entry zone set by the government. Residents in the zone were ordered to evacuate, but the farmer stayed on to look after his animals.

At that time, the government was seeking to destroy the cattle within the no-entry zone by obtaining their owners’ consent, saying animals that were heavily contaminated with radiation from the nuclear accident could not be sold at market.

But some farmers did not want to put their livestock down.

However, keeping them alive costs 200,000 yen ($2,000) a year in feed per head.

Matsubara became curious why the farmers continued to look after cattle that cannot be sold or bred, despite the heavy economic burden.

He soon began making weekly trips from Osaka to Fukushima to film the lives of the farmers, their cattle and the people around them.

After finishing his regular job in promotional events on Fridays, Matsubara would drive 11 hours to Fukushima and spend the weekend documenting the plight of the farmers before returning to Osaka by Monday morning.

He had 5 million yen saved for the documentary, his first feature film. When the money ran out, Matsubara held a crowdfunding campaign to complete it. Shooting wrapped up at the end of December.

About 350 hours of footage was edited into the 104-minute “Hibaku-ushi to Ikiru.”

The film documents the farmers and their supporters who are struggling to keep the cattle alive.

One couple in the film returns to their land in Okuma, a town that co-hosts the Fukushima plant, to care for their herd. They affectionately named each animal and said it would be unbearable to kill them. Their trips are financed using a bulk of the compensation they received for the nuclear accident.

A former assemblyman of Namie, a town near the plant, tends to his animals while asking himself why he used to support nuclear power.

The documentary also sheds light on scientists who are helping the farmers. The researchers believe that keeping track of the contaminated cattle will provide clues in unraveling how low-level radiation exposure impacts large mammals like humans.

Matsubara said the documentary tells the real story of what is going on with victims of the nuclear disaster.

“Not all the farmers featured in the documentary share the same opinion or stance,” Matsubara said. “I would like audiences to see the reality of people who cannot openly raise their voices to be heard.”

Takeshi Shiba, a documentary filmmaker who served as producer of this project, hopes the film will reach a wide audience.

“Matsubara broke his back in making this movie,” he said. “I hope that many people will learn what Fukushima people are thinking.” ”

by Satoko Onuki


A2-B-C: Voices from Fukushima draw strong responses at LA screening — Rafu Shimpo

A2-B-C website

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Rafu Shimpo: ” From anti-nuclear activists to concerned citizens, approximately 70 people, young and old, gathered at Alvas showroom in San Pedro on Nov. 2 to watch “A2-B-C,” an award-winning documentary directed by American filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash.

Dance 4 Oceans, an environmental volunteer group that raises public awareness about trash pollution in the ocean, hosted the event.

Kanna Jones, the founder, said she initially thought attendance was going to be much lower, mentioning that when she told people about this event, they seemed uninterested. “They didn’t mean that they didn’t care, but they don’t want to see anymore.”

Although people prefer to view the 2011 Fukushima disaster as a thing of the past, “it’s still going and getting even worse,” she said.

Jones shared data published in Nature and Japan Today:

• More than 100 children have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer since the disaster;

• The cumulative amount of radiation released from the Fukushima nuclear power plant has exceeded that of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster;

• Post-tsunami deaths due to stress and other health complications now exceed 1,607 — the number of people who were killed in the initial calamity in Fukushima.

She emphasized the importance of continuous efforts to raise awareness about the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster as well as the danger of nuclear power plants.

“A2-B-C” is about real voices from people in Fukushima. The director, who lives in Japan, traveled to Fukushima 11 days after the disaster and documented the health effects on children and mothers struggling with fear about their children’s safety. The film shows hot spots in schoolyards, radiation detectors on children’s backpacks, and diagnoses of thyroid cysts even as the government advocates “safe Fukushima.”

Stella Cruz of Carson, who previously had limited knowledge about the disaster, said, “It’s devastating. It’s very sad and disappointing. It’s so unbelievable to me that the government is allowing this to continue.” She saw her children and herself in the film, and wiped tears from her face.

Pointing out a scene in the film in which a crying mother proclaims, “We need to get angry,” Cruz said, “Prior to that, everyone in the movie was very polite and speaking in a happy tone, but I agree with this woman. It’s time for change. It’s not time to be polite. Children are dying and cannot even pick flowers [due to radiation contamination]. It’s not okay.”

Gwen Moffett of Rancho Palos Verdes said, “It’s something that we all need to work on together and remain aware of,” adding that education is the key. “Events like this are very important because people get a chance to learn.”

Dave Rubin of Los Angeles was viewing the film for the first time, too, but he has always had great concerns about the danger of nuclear power plants.

“I know radiation there came over here through the ocean. Because there are so many nuclear power plants around the world, the same thing could happen anywhere at any time,” he warned. “We need to continue to talk about this kind of issues.”

After the screening, a panel discussion was held with Ash (who participated via Skype from Japan) and four local panelists: Beverly Findlay-Kaneko and Yuji Kaneko from Families for Safe Energy, Yoko Collin, a concerned citizen and a mother of two, and Miki Bay, an anti-nuclear activist.

Beverly and Yuji Kaneko, who recently visited Fukushima, said that the situation has changed since the filming: no radiation detectors on children’s backpacks, no children wearing masks, no radiation warning signs. Local markets were even full of fresh fish from the Tohoku area.

Despite the fact that radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is still leaking into the ocean and many countries continue to ban imports of certain food products from Fukushima, the school lunch program — funded by the Japanese government — promotes Tohoku-grown products in Fukushima.

According to Beverly’s measurement near a school, radiation detected in Fukushima was nine times higher at waist level and 11 times higher at ground level than in Yokohama. “The mothers’ worries about their children’s future are unchanged,” she said.

Ash added that parents who voice their concerns about their children’s safety and the danger of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima often become targets of bullying by other local people who are afraid of spreading harmful rumors, which they claim would damage local businesses.

Because of this trend, the mothers who appeared in the documentary have insisted that the film not be released online or on DVD. Ash said he only has their permission to show it at private screenings.

The film has been shown at 24 film festivals and has received positive responses from viewers. However, Ash pointed out that most of the audience members who attended those screenings are already interested in environmental or nuclear issues, and that capturing the attention of the general public is his current challenge.

During the Q&A segment, some tough questions were raised, such as “Why have the Japanese turned a blind eye to their own people?” Ash responded, “We need more people who actually care. People just want to pretend everything is fine, then when something goes wrong, they blame the government. We as citizens of our country have a responsibility to have a say and have the government do something about it.”

He also emphasized that the first step everyone can take is to ask the question: What can I do to help? “Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer. This is a real call for change. It’s not only about Fukushima. It is about how we use our energy and how we can change our lives. This is about all of us.”

For more info about Ash’s film, visit ”


Journalist makes documentary film after spending 2 years in Fukushima — Mainichi

” After over two years in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, and recording some 250 hours’ worth of footage, a journalist is putting his work out in the form of a 3 hour and 45 minute documentary film.

A producer and editor for “The Will: If Only There Were no Nuclear Plant” praised the film as a “treasure-trove of imagery,” so well does it capture the emotions of Fukushima residents and tense situations. In one such scene, the film’s protagonist rushes to the home of a fellow dairy farmer who has committed suicide, a scene filmed after that farmer’s obituary just happened to come to bear while the journalist who made the film was on-site.

That journalist was Naomi Toyoda, 57, who got his start as a freelance reporter back in 1982. A cram school teacher until then, he was spurred to act after seeing reports of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon on television. He would spend 20 years reporting on Palestine, and 10 years covering Iraq’s depleted uranium rounds.

“It’s deep reporting, different than constantly dealing with the latest stories like in the mass media,” says Toyoda. He runs his camera only after building a relationship of trust with his subjects, after they begin to show their natural selves.

Despite his time reporting from battlefields, Toyoda was still struck with doubt while working in Fukushima Prefecture. “I didn’t know what I should do,” he says, to help the residents there who have been forced to live their lives together with the threat of radiation.

The documentary film ends with the protagonist walking with a dosimeter around a temporary storage site for radioactive waste that resulted from decontamination work. Toyoda, in an expression of determination, says, “Three years after the nuclear disaster, nothing is solved. I’m going to keep on reporting.” ”