An Interview with Ian Thomas Ash (Director)
To Convey Truth and Protect Our Children
Q: The appearance of A2 pustules—characteristic of the potential future onset of thyroid cancer—in the children of Fukushima is devastating. How did you come to learn about this?
ITA: When filming my last work, In the Grey Zone, in Minamisoma, I heard that there were places where radiation levels were higher, despite being farther away from the nuclear reactor than Minamisoma. It was during my trips to Kawamata, Date, and Fukushima, that I began to hear of this most recent trend in children. I thought, “Since an issue this serious is not being picked up by television or newspapers, I have to cover it,” and thus began to film. Despite the story being discussed on Twitter and Facebook, it still didn’t appear on television or in the paper, so I felt charged to capture the evidence. To wait five years for future effects would be too late. If after five or ten years the pustules prove to be noncarcinogenic in nature, I can apologize for raising unnecessary concern. It is preferable to evacuate those that might not need to be evacuated, even though it’s troublesome. Going overboard is the better choice.
Q: While filming unauthorized within an elementary school, there is a scene in which you have a dispute with the vice principal. Can you describe what was going through your mind at that time?
ITA: The vice principal was correct as far as the rules go. If I were sending my children to that school, I certainly would not want them being filmed by a stranger. I apologized for that. However, it was the vice principal’s surprising suggestion that acquiring approval to film was more important than the nuclear hot spot adjacent to the school, which suddenly filled me with all that rage. I think it was from having spent so much time with the children’s mothers that I ended up channeling their anger.
Q: Within the film, there are many mothers who regularly warn of the dangers of radiation in order to protect their children, and yet, there are also mothers who are raising their children without too much concern about it. What do you think about this?
ITA: There are more mothers of the latter temperament, but that does not mean that we should tell them how to raise their children. My wish is that they will watch this film, think about it, and decide on their own how to raise their children. The country’s present lack of credibility means that even if something is designated safe, the criterion of safety remains untrustworthy. It is now one’s own responsibility to acquire accurate information from which to decide what is best to feed, or not to feed, one’s children.
Q: To continue to pursue the nuclear problem might result in an inevitable battle with the country. What do you think about this?
ITA: There is nothing I can do. Are you familiar with a hummingbird? When there is a fire in the forest, the other animals merely look on as they worry about what should be done. But even though those other animals mock him, the hummingbird transports water little by little, in its tiny beak. Alone, the fire cannot be extinguished, but it is possible if everyone joins forces. So let’s put out this fire together!
(Compiled by Suzuki Noriko)
Interviewers: Suzuki Noriko, Sato Hiroaki / Interpreter: Tanimoto Hiroyuki / Translator: Jason Douglass
Photography: Iwata Kohei / Video: Fujikawa Kiyohisa / 2013-10-12