Film documenting Thyroid disease wins Award

The winner of the Nippon Visions Award 2013 is the documentary film A2 by Ian Thomas Ash. JVTA (Japan Visualmedia Translation Academy) will finance the subtitling for the director’s next project.

In June, “A2-B-C” was awarded the coveted Nippon Visions Award, the top prize for new directors at the film’s world premiere at the Nippon Connection Film Festival in Frankfurt, Germany.

“The cinema was full. A young woman who was a child of the time of the Chernobyl meltdown, she came to the screening. People were just shocked, and that it wasn’t in the news. They weren’t being told about it,” Ash said.

“As adults, we can make a choice. We evacuate or not evacuate. The children are dependent on the adults making the decisions for them. The most difficult thing for me is that I’m not sure how much good will come out of this for the people that it is happening to. Part of me thinks this is only going to mean something in the future and what I’m doing right now is not going to directly help these people, and that is very hard for me.”

“A2-B-C” upcoming screenings include the Global Peace Festival in the United States (Sept. 17 through 22), the Guam International Film Festival (Sept. 24 through 29), the Chagrin International Documentary Film Festival (Oct. 2 through 6) and the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (Oct. 4 through 8).

“I’m curious about what will happen. Even people in Tokyo don’t know what is happening. One of the things I realized in filming, as citizens of a country, … when something goes wrong, we think the government is just going to provide for us and take care of us,” Ash said.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Fukushima disaster, he realizes that is not always the case.

“We have to be active participants in the way our government works as members of a society,” Ash said. “We have responsibilities to be good citizens as well and to be active participants in society. It’s not just sitting around and waiting for the government to do something. We have to take action to protect our children. Those mothers are taking action. They are not waiting for the government to measure radiation. They are in radioactive hot spots and measuring radiation around the school to protect their children. They are not waiting for someone to help them.”

He attributes the film’s festival-selection success to people’s desire to become more informed.

“The festival programmers want to program films about current events and things that are happening now. The film is in so many festivals in the next two months alone. I’m really shocked and pleasantly surprised at how many festivals this will be in and really grateful to share the story of the children of Fukushima with audiences all over the world,” he said.

The Japanese mothers agreed to do the film for this very reason.

“They want their story to be told,” Ash said.

Post-screenings, festival-goers ask him what they should do.

“I don’t know the answer,” Ash said. “This is the first step to get people to know there is a problem. Then, we can talk about a solution. If you don’t know there is a problem, then you can’t come up with a solution.”

….. “In the Grey Zone” was filmed closer to the damaged plant. “A2-B-C” was filmed between 40 and 50 kilometers away.

“It lies right in the path of the radioactive plume. If you see the map of where the radioactive plume went, it went northwest. These towns are farther away from the nuclear plant, but they are actually contaminated with higher levels of radiation. So because they are farther away, they were not in the original evacuation zone,” said Ash, who returns to Fukushima every month and is working on a third film.

Families outside of the evacuation zone bore the costs of relocating.

“There was no government support to do that,” Ash said. “And so, what happened was anyone who had money and could evacuate did. People who were left were people who didn’t have the money or means to evacuate. This is an area, an agricultural community, and so basically everything they had — their land, farming equipment, their homes —

was contaminated. So, they couldn’t sell it. Imagine trying to move your family when everything you have has been taken away from you.”

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