Between February 27 and March 12, the Ekoda Movie Festival was held at Gallery Furuto and Musashi University in Ekoda, Tokyo, by a citizens group.
The theme was Remember 3.11. There were movies about the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, including social issues and nuclear radiation.
I went to Gallery Furuto to see one of the movies, What We Want to Tell You Now (if). This was originally a play created by Souma Koko Hosokyoku (Soma High School Broadcasting), a performance group made up of students at Soma High School in Fukushima Prefecture, one of the schools devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The teacher, Yoshihiro Watanobe, who supervised the school club filmed the play, and it was screened throughout Japan.
In 2013, this movie won the Special Award of the Japan Congress of Journalists. In 2021, when people are gradually forgetting 3.11, it is important to watch the movie because today it remains as powerful a voice of the students who experienced 3.11 as it was at the time it first came out.
The Story and What They Put in the Play
The story begins with three female high school students seemingly playing happily together a year after the 3.11 Earthquake and tsunami and nuclear disaster hit Fukushima.
However, one day, one of them, Nozomi, who seemed the happiest on the surface, suddenly commited suicide.
Why did she commit suicide? The two left behind, Sakura and Maki, were confused, but gradually they started to share their experiences from 3.11 with each other.
There were about 15 people in the theater gallery, and we were all watching the film in silence.
Some of the audience were connected to Fukushima. For example, one of them was born in Fukushima and had moved to Tokyo when she started working.
“In Tokyo I had only limited knowledge about what happened in Fukushima. To see this movie made me hear their real voices once again,” she said.
To tell you the truth, it’s hard to say that it is very sophisticated. The play is quite short. You can find other high school plays that are more sophisticated and larger scale.
However, this play has more power to appeal to the hearts of the audience than other plays.
The main author of the movie scenario wrote about her thoughts in a book, saying:
“After the earthquake, only adults were quoted in the media coverage. When the childrens created works about the earthquake, it was the adults who dramatized them. And the final line would always be something like,’Fight! Fukushima!’. I still remember a friend of mine who would hear that and then, with a resigned smile, say, ‘What more should we have to?’”
In the middle of the story, Sakura shouts out her heartbroken thoughts.
“Someone, please listen to our voice! Please dont ignore the children’s voices! Don’t forget our reality! Don’t forget there are people still suffering!”
Their sadness and anger, which we must not forget and which we must keep alive, are captured by the movie.
The Reality is Far from ‘Reconstruction’ and ‘Recovery’
After watching the movie, the teacher, Mr. Watanobe, spoke about the thoughts behind the play, what the students had wanted to say through it and his own thoughts on the current state of reconstruction.
It has been 10 years since 3.11 occured. The words “Reconstruction” and “Recovery” are used more often than before, for example in the slogan, “Recovery Olympics”. But he criticized this as hypocrisy, and then continued:
“Decommissioning the nuclear power plant will not be completed in my lifetime. Nevertheless, if there is to be a recovery from 3.11, rebuilding the infrastructure and housing is an essential prerequisite, of course. But what is most important is the environment that enables the students and children who experienced 3.11 should be able to face society and 3.11, discuss the issues, and correct the mistakes that were made.”
In his view, there is a huge gap between the reconstruction claimed by the government and the reconstruction desired by the people of Fukushima Prefecture. As the intensity of the images of 3.11 gradually fade for people outside of Fukushima, they have come to think that Fukushima is in a process of making a wonderful recovery.
The movie brought us back to the current reality of Fukushima. We need to know the voices of the children, which have been suppressed, and to support Fukushima in the real sense. And above all, we must not forget that the disaster of 3.11 is not over for Fukushima.
Find articles related to the series, “3.11 Earthquake: Rebuilding” at this link.
Author: Simon Kagaya