Work-in-Progress Screenings, Kartemquin Films, New Projects, and More

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Mizuho Sugeno
asami girls cemetery
The Asami family farms in Aizu in Western Fukushima.

2013 greetings from Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski of Homesick Blues Productions, the filmmakers behind the ongoing documentary Uncanny Terrain, about organic farmers in Fukushima, Japan fighting to hold onto their land and their livelihoods in the face of nuclear fallout.

We are well into editing footage from our first two years of production.

We are gearing up to return to Fukushima to capture the farmer’s ongoing struggle to build a healthier, more sustainable food supply, two years after the Great Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 and the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Work-in-Progress Screenings

Work-in-progress footage from Uncanny Terrain will be screened in the Urgenci 5th International Community Supported Agriculture Conference, Tuesday, Jan. 22 at Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, California, and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York’s 31st Annual Organic Farming and Gardening Conference, Friday, Jan. 25 at Saratoga Hilton & City Center, Saratoga Springs, New York. 

Please check out our work at these valuable conferences if you’re in the area.

Update from Fukushima

Organic farmer Seiji Sugeno is fighting to keep alive his mountain village of Towa, whose economy is ravaged by the aftermath of the nuclear disaster two years ago.  Sugeno is convinced that human contact is the key to overcoming public fears of Fukushima produce, so he travels Japan explaining Fukushima farmers’ efforts to reduce radioactive contamination and sustain the land their ancestors have cultivated for generations.

Sugeno’s 24-year-old daughter Mizuho has launched the Seed of Hope Company to welcome guests from across Japan and internationally to visit their idyllic Playing-with-Clouds Farm and experience the life their family is fighting to protect.

Masami Yoshizawa, who kept his 300 cows alive inside the nuclear evacuation zone in defiance of a government kill order, despite losing many cows to an outbreak of disease, has seen his herd grow to 350 with new births and the adoption of strays from neighboring farms.  Possibly in retaliation for his outspoken activism and media presence, Yoshizawa lost his permit to enter the evacuation zone.  The day before Yoshizawa and his team were set to give up and release the herd, he reversed course and set out to confront the officials who had denied his permit, and demand the right to continue caring for his cows.

As new disasters turn the eyes of the world and Japan away from Fukushima, Uncanny Terrain continues our journey with Yoshizawa and the Sugenos and the other farmers who struggle every day to find a way to live in tune with a natural environment compromised by manmade catastrophe.

 Kartemquin Films’ Diverse Voices in Docs

Uncanny Terrain codirector Junko Kajino has been invited to join Diverse Voices in Docs, a new program of pioneering Chicago documentary producers Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago, designed to develop talent among Chicago’s minority nonfiction filmmakers.  Diverse Voices in Docs is supported by the Joyce Foundation, The Academy for Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, and Kat Lei Productions.

New Projects

We have launched two new documentary projects.  One project follows two very different high school rap groups in Chicago’s West Side Austin neighborhood.

The other project explores one Chicagoan’s efforts to replace Syria’s embattled Assad regime with a fledgling democracy.

Donations Ongoing

Thank you to everyone whose contributions have allowed us to get this far.  We continue to accept tax-deductible donations toward the ongoing production, post-production, and eventual release of Uncanny Terrain.  Here’s how.  We remain, as ever, deeply grateful for your support.

Thanks to Our Translators

We send our profound gratitude to our international team of volunteer translators, who have been invaluable to our editing process by producing English-language transcripts from hundreds of hours of Japanese-language footage.

Thank you to Meg Kajino, Eugene Kobayashi, Peter Arbaugh, Yo Shin, Noriko Hopkins, Kazari Getz Kikuchi, Hiroshi Yasuda, Alice Tallents, Ayaka Maekawa, Chris Watts, Hiroko Uenushi, Mari Kawade, Naoki Izumo, Priscilla Watson, Tomoko Nakano, and especially Miki Takada, who has translated 16 days worth of footage!

If you’re still working on a file, or I’ve left your name off this list, please let me know.  There are still many files left to translate, so if you can help, or you know someone who can, please drop us a line or spread the word.

 Our Previous Film

Our international psychological drama The First Breath of Tengan Rei is available via download, streaming, or DVD.  Find it here.

Uncanny Terrain is supported in part by grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

 

One Year After the Meltdown

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Please join our IndieGoGo campaign to help Uncanny Terrain return to Fukushima.

Uncanny Terrain benefit photos

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Benefit reception at High Concept Laboratories featuring Tatsu Aoki‘s MIYUMI Project 2/5/2012—photos by Daniel Guidara

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Uncanny Terrain is a documentary about organic farmers facing Japan’s nuclear crisis. Please support the production of the film.

Contributions are tax-deductible through our fiscal sponsors Asian Improv aRts Midwest and Ionia, Inc.

Make checks payable to AIRMW, memo: Uncanny Terrain. Mail to AIRMW, c/o JASC, 4427 N. Clark, Chicago IL 60640. Or donate online via PayPal.

Uncanny Terrain in the Chicago Reader

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Rice Harvest

by Sam Worley
Chicago Reader

Along with Junko Kajino, occasional Reader contributor Ed M. Koziarski is codirector of Uncanny Terrain, a documentary about effects from last year’s tsunami and nuclear crisis on Japan’s rice farmers. This preview screening event includes music by Tatsu Aoki and his band the Miyumi Project, and David Tanimura shows digital collages about the nuclear threat. RSVP required; e-mail uncannyterrain@gmail.com.

Uncanny Terrain reception Sunday and more

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This is video we shot of the December performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago by Uncanny Terrain composer Tatsu Aoki‘s group Tsukasa Taiko Legacy at JASC.

Tatsu and his band The MIYUMI Project will accompany preview scenes from Uncanny Terrain with their fusion of jazz and Japanese classical music from 6-7 p.m. at High Concept Laboratoriesbenefit reception this Sunday, Feb. 5, 5-8 p.m. at 1401 W. Wabansia in Chicago.

Featuring art by David Tanimura, sushi by Chef Atsushi Iwamoto of Mizu Yakitori (thanks to Mayumi Miyazaki and Asako Hoichi), organic Daishichi Sake courtesy of JFC International, kurimanju and inarizushi by Jo Anne Yamamoto of Auntie Jo’s Yummies, and appetizers courtesy of Shino Tamura from Murasaki Saki Lounge.

All this for no cover charge! But a portion of art sales and all donations benefit our return to Japan in March to capture the first anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and meltdown. If you’re coming, be sure to rsvp here or here.

Can’t miss the first half of the Superbowl? Not in Chicago? We still invite you to make a tax-deductible donation to fund the completion of the film.

Make checks payable to our new fiscal sponsor, Asian Improv aRts Midwest (AIRMW), c/o Japanese American Service Committee, 4427 N. Clark, Chicago, IL 60640 (memo: Uncanny Terrain).

And we continue to accept online donations through our ongoing fiscal sponsor Ionia Inc.

Illinois Arts CouncilUncanny Terrain has been awarded a grant from the Illinois Arts Council‘s Individual Artist Support fund for media arts. Thanks!

A pair of Chicago indie filmmakers captures farmers in the aftermath of Japan’s nuclear disaster

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cows2By Jake Malooley
TimeOut Chicago

Jan. 25, 2012

One steamy day last July, Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski found themselves in Fukushima, Japan, hiding beneath a tarp in the back of a pickup truck full of cow feed. The farmer behind the wheel smuggled the filmmakers into a government-mandated 20-kilometer evacuation zone that became highly contaminated with radioactive cesium after a massive earthquake 43 miles off the city’s coast in March. The quake triggered tsunami waves that smashed into the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, causing meltdowns of three reactors.

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Why we’re making Uncanny Terrain

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Filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski talk about making the documentary Uncanny Terrain, about organic farmers facing Japan’s nuclear crisis.  http://tinyurl.com/uncannyterrain

Fukushima 1 Year After the Meltdown

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Fukushima farmers’ rice harvest sits in stockpiles, mostly unsold after radioactive cesium was detected in samples in and outside of the prefecture.

Unable to sell their rice, Fukushima organic farmers have become educators, promoting understanding among their customers about the interconnections of land use, energy consumption, and traditional culture.

Despite staggering odds, most of the farmers remain committed to preserving and recovering their land for future generations.

We return to Fukushima this March to capture the recovery efforts a year after the 3/11 tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster.

High Concept LaboratoriesTo support this endeavor, nonprofit arts support organization High Concept Laboratories presents Fukushima: 1 Year After the Meltdown, a benefit reception for Uncanny Terrain, Sunday, Feb. 5, 5-8 p.m. at 1401 W. Wabansia in Chicago.

From 6-7 p.m. we’ll screen a preview video with live accompaniment by our composer Tatsu Aoki and his band The MIYUMI Project, which performs a fusion of jazz and Japanese classical music.

Tatsu is a jazz bassist and a leader of the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival and Tsukasa Taiko Legacy.

David Tanimura will showcase his digital collages inspired by the nuclear crisis. Refreshments will be served. The reception is free but rsvp is required, and tax-deductible donations to the film are welcome.

Not in Chicago? Can’t make it? Want to help today? We continue to gratefully accept online tax-deductible donations in support of Uncanny Terrain.