Previewing Three Episodes in the Blue Fish Japanese Environmental Film Festival

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Three episodes of the documentary series Uncanny Terrain will screen in a sneak preview, Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Blue Fish Japanese Environmental Documentary Film Festival at the Nightingale Cinema, 1084 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago.  Chicago-based filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski will hold a Q&A after the screening.

Kajino and Koziarski traveled to Fukushima, Japan, shortly after the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, to live and work with farmers fighting to continue growing organic food on land contaminated by the fallout.

Screening are the episodes DefianceArising, and Renewal.

Defiance
84-year old Teruo Yasukawa is the only farmer growing rice in Minamisoma, Japan, where authorities imposed a growing ban over fears of contamination from the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, 20 km away.

 

Arising
Seiji Sugeno fights to keep alive his village of Towa in the foothills of Fukushima, as farms fail amid fears of radioactive fallout and Sugeno worries for the health of his daughter Mizuho, who is poised to take over his farm.

 

Renewal
Born in the Tokyo suburbs, Akihiro Asami is one of the only farmers in the tiny mountain village of Wasetani, on the outskirts of Fukushima, where trace amounts of contamination from 2011’s nuclear meltdown compound existing issues with an aging population and struggling economy. Asami’s wife Harumi and two young daughters evacuated in the wake of the meltdown, but returned a year later, choosing the health risk over the alienation of living as an evacuee. They’re working to build a sustainable community with their neighbors, rooted in traditional farming and artisanal practices that utilize the area’s rich natural resources. In 2014, Akihiro runs for mayor of the surrounding city of Kitakata, calling for a complete transformation of the local economy based on the principles he practices as an organic farmer.

 

 

Harvest Time in Fukushima

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Just as the U.S. State Department announces that it’s safe to be here, it’s time for us to leave. We conclude our 20 weeks living and working among the organic farmers and food producers of Fukushima, a week after the State Department narrowed its travel advisory against visiting the area around the power plant from 80 kilometers to the Japanese government’s 20-kilometer evacuation zone.

Seven months since the beginning of the crisis, Japan stumbles toward recovery. Evacuated communities are being reopened near the nuclear plant, even as many efforts to decontaminate land are proving ineffective. With a number of notable exceptions, testing of rice and vegetables is showing much less contamination than was expected based on results in Chernobyl. Researchers investigate the reasons for these levels, considering the differing composition of Japanese soil, particularly certain minerals and bacteria that may remove radioactive cesium or prevent plants from absorbing it—bacteria that may thrive in organically cultivated land.

But the food testing regime is still sporadic, and no amount of lower test results will be sufficient to convince much of the public that Fukushima food is safe to eat. The organic farmers here toil to repair their land using natural methods (land that many of their families have tilled since before the U.S. was a country), to grow their food as free as possible of radionuclides, and to accurately communicate the condition of their produce to consumers. Constantly exposed to background radiation and inhaled particles in their fields, as well as from food and water, the farmers rank with cleanup workers in the groups at greatest risk of suffering health damage.

We will edit the film in Chicago through the fall and winter, and return to Japan next March to cover how the farmers weathered the seasons and how they fare as they prepare to plant again, a year after the disaster. In the meantime, we still need your support to cover the costs of postproduction. Please spread the word and if you can please make a tax-deductible donation to the project.