YIDFF 2003 New Asian Currents
Hibakusha—At the End of the World
An Interview with Kamanaka Hitomi

What in the World are Human Beings Doing?

Q: Various victims of nuclear radiation, as well as perpetrators, appear in your film.

KH: To me they are all victims of radiation, so I don’t take the perspective of victim versus perpetrator. Human beings cannot go on living unless they think to themselves, “I am a useful part of society. There is a purpose to my existence.” A system that supports nuclear weapons relies on this fundamental human quality. Terry, who grows agricultural products for Japan in the polluted soil near the Hanford Nuclear Facility in the U.S., is a great farmer who is known as the “Hay King” for his hay-making abilities. For him, it is a source of pride to produce quality agriculture, and thus to recognize that his family are radiation victims and his land is polluted would not only impact his standard of living, it would rob him of his pride. Therefore he has no choice but to believe in the government’s view that his lands are safe and live in denial about his own victimization. Scientists working at the same nuclear facility are also victims of radiation, but they are similarly caught within the system and say in a matter-of-fact way, “there is no danger of radiation exposure.” When people begin to deny their own victimization, that is when they become perpetrators—the victims and perpetrators get all mixed up, leading to the preservation of nuclear weapons. There are a small number of people in both Hanford and Rokkasho Village who are opposed to the nuclear weapons facilities, but they are persecuted. It’s like in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense when he says something along the lines of, “when you are aware of an evil and allow it to fester there undisturbed for a long period of time, it eventually becomes a natural part of society. Then when outsiders come and claim that this is ‘wrong,’ they all stand up in protest.” Human beings tend to behave in this way.

Q: Many of the people who appear in your film appear to be quite healthy, and yet they are victims of radiation exposure.

KH: Victims of low-level radiation exposure are dying in a very unobvious fashion. Dr. Hida says, “People just accept invisible sacrifices as things that don’t really exist and pursue self-satisfying lifestyles. That’s a basic part of human nature, but if we don’t change this human beings will perish.” Because the effects of radiation exposure are not immediately visible, people tend to dismiss it as something that will somehow be resolved. But it is pointless to be optimistic in such a half-hearted way. “What in the world are these people doing?”—this is the question we must ask ourselves in order to face the truth about what human beings are doing to other human beings. I know we can’t live our lives being panicked about a pollution that we can’t even see, but every individual needs to start changing little by little.

Q: It was a memorable moment in the film when Terry, who is in such denial about his own victimization says, “It’s difficult to forget what has happened.”

KH: That interview was extremely long. I said to him at the end of it, “I want to ask you one last thing. How do you really feel? Don’t lie to me, tell me the truth.” Because he’s such a genuinely good guy, he can’t help but become honest in the end. I thought to myself, what a great guy, I can really understand how he must feel. After all, he’s apparently healthy and his crops are growing just fine.

Q: I heard you’ve screened your film domestically to over 20,000 people so far. What are your plans for screening this film abroad?

KH: There is an English version and I’ve already given it to an American NGO. I want the people of countries in Asia who applaud the dropping of the atom bomb on their former Japanese invaders to see this film and recognize the truth behind nuclear weapons. Because whereever there is nuclear arms development, there is pollution from nuclear waste as well as victims of radiation exposure. But there are still so many things that we can do right here in Japan. Depeleted uranium from Japanese nuclear power plants have been dropped on Iraq, miniscule amounts of radiation have been leaking from Japan’s 52 nuclear power plants, and Rokkasho Village’s nuclear reprocessing facility, which is scheduled to go into operation next year, is said to drain 25 times the amount of plutonium (the most toxic form of radioactivity) released in a major nuclear power plant accident, into the air and ocean causing irrevokable damage. This is the same as attacking oneself, and has the same impact as having large amounts of depleted uranium shells dropped on us. Yet the media does not want to talk about such crucial matters. This is because, like the locals living near nuclear power plants, they have become conditioned to ignore evils in the way Paine described in Common Sense. I believe the act of loosening the grip that these “things we shouldn’t do” have on us is very important.

(Compiled by Fujioka Reiko)

Interviewers: Fujioka Reiko, Kurokawa Michiko
Photography: Kurokawa Michiko / Video: Kato Takanobu / 2003-09-29 / in Tokyo