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.

 

About Harvest interview with Uncanny Terrain codirector Ed M. Koziarski

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Yasukawaby Nancy O’Mallon
About Harvest
June 20, 2012

AH: What was the impetus for you to start the documentary, and when will it premiere

EK: We knew we wanted to tell a story about the 3/11 disaster, and in researching the situation, we were intrigued by the deep sense of connection to the land that Fukushima organic farmers expressed in the wake of the meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. We plan to premiere next year…

AH: What outcome are you hoping your completed film will bring?

EK: We hope viewers will gain a better understanding of what it’s like for people in Fukushima, who are most often portrayed as merely tragic victims or intransigent. We hope some viewers will be moved to get involved, by reaching out to organizations in Fukushima, or by working for sustainable agriculture and alternative energy wherever they are.

Read more…

Rio+20: Four Fukushima Farmers

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This video, capturing the diverse views of four Fukushima activist farmers, screens beginning June 16 in the Rio+20 United Nations Sustainable Development Conference, where one of our main subjects, Seiji Sugeno, director of the Fukushima Organic Farmers Network, is presenting.

Sugeno soil test

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Niigata University researchers test the effect of various combinations of soil additives on the absorption of radioactive cesium by Sugeno’s rice.

Saitos spread zeolite

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Father and son Saito powder their rice field with government-mandated zeolite. It’s intended to fix cesium in the soil to reduce absorption by crops, but some question its effectiveness and health impact. Fields across Fukushima are dotted with the white bags, and the white dust is everywhere.

Asami Girls

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Organic farmer Asami’s wife and daughters evacuated in March 2011 from Aizu, 130 km west of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Asami only saw his daughters a few times last year. In the winter, the family moved back to Aizu.

One Year After the Meltdown

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

To the East Coast and On to Fukushima

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Today Uncanny Terrain codirector Junko Kajino begins an East Coast mini-tour, presenting scenes from the in-progress documentary for schools and community groups. Please join her if you’re in the area.

Filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski spent five months inside Japan’s nuclear contamination zone for our documentary Uncanny Terrain – living and working with the farmers, researchers and volunteers who have committed themselves to take the nuclear crisis as an opportunity to build a better society.  We’re going beyond disaster reporting, to show what it is really like for these people who refuse to bow to devastating odds.

Now we need your help to return to Japan and revisit those working on the front lines of the nuclear crisis, as they mark the one-year anniversary and the farmers prepare to plant again.

We need to raise $10,000 by March 31 to cover the cost of traveling to Japan and shooting there through the April planting. Please join us by donating to and sharing our new IndieGoGo campaign.  We encourage PayPal contributions because they are tax-deductible, and funds are available to us immediately. Thank you to everyone who has already supported  Uncanny Terrain. Please send this invitation to your friends.  Join the campaign on Facebook.

The organic farmers of Fukushima prefecture toiled for 40 years to grow safe, nutritious and delicious crops on their ancestral land while two nuclear power plants in the prefecture helped feed Tokyo’s increasingly voracious energy appetite.

Since the March 2011 tsunami triggered the meltdown that spread radioactive contamination on much of the lush farmland of Fukushima and eastern Japan, the farmers have been caught between a government in constant denial of the risks of radiation, and outraged citizens who brand the farmers “child murderers” for continuing to cultivate irradiated land.

But the farmers, researchers and volunteers are committed to building a comprehensive monitoring and reporting network to inform citizens about contamination levels in food, air, water and land, so families can make their own informed decisions; and advancing experimental methods to decontaminate soil or prevent crops grown on contaminated soil from absorbing radiation.

Fukushima has demonstrated the need for greater public vigilance to keep all our food and energy producers honest, not just about radiation but about all the potential contaminants that our collective appetites introduce into our bodies and our communities.

Please support Uncanny Terrain and help generate dialogue about these vital issues and assure that the struggles of people in Fukushima can stimulate positive change in the world.  Thank you!

 

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