An Interview with Funahashi Atsushi (Director)
Determined to Continue Looking at Futaba
Q: You started filming immediately after the disaster. Why did you choose the people of Futaba then?
FA: I can say I’m victim to the disaster myself, because the production of a film of mine was cancelled thanks to March 11. It was not only about losing income, but more about the shock, that a project I had prepared to devote my heart and soul suddenly disappeared. I was also strongly frustrated with the disparity of news access in Japan and overseas about the Fukushima nuclear accident. I began to have doubts about the Japanese government—that it was trying to tone down the real scale of the nuclear disaster. Around then, I learned that Futaba-machi, one of the towns where the reactors stand, had announced its evacuation plan to a location 250 km away, outside of Fukushima prefecture. Something clicked in me. I felt strongly for the people of Futaba who took safety seriously enough to move away as far as possible without being tied down to conventional geographic loyalties. And so first of all I decided to go and hear them out.
With research, I came to know that the power produced at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant is used in the Tokyo metropolitan region by people like me who live there. I was taking the train every day to visit the place where those townspeople lived in refuge, while I myself continued to use electricity. I felt uncomfortable with that. It was not fair that the townspeople who’d lived on the land which produced nuclear power had been robbed of their homes and forced to evacuate, while I as consumer of that electricity lived safely at home and maintained a stable life. This documentary started with a desire to film the dialogue between me, the user, and the Futaba people, the producer of nuclear power—at least until I could figure out the reasons behind this injustice.
Q: In the time you spent with the Futaba people, what kind of thoughts went through your mind?
FA: The historical axis tells us there is no equal relationship between Tokyo and Fukushima. Because of the disaster, Fukushima lost all of its history, land, culture, community, everything that it had established in the over a thousand years before the nuclear reactor arrived. Its image is now completely devastated. Meanwhile, Tokyo did not lose any of its history or encounter any damage after the tragedy. The nuclear power plant gave birth to an absolutely unequal treaty between Tokyo and Fukushima. Once I recognized that, I felt this had to be filmed. I needed to tell the truth, that the people of Fukushima had lost something money can never compensate.
Q: You always seem to place your camera with the Fukushima townspeople at the center—for example filming the television screen over the shoulder of the people watching it. Why?
FA: I like depicting the world through a small window, and also from a fixed position. Initially I promised myself I wouldn’t go to Fukushima to film—that I would continue to shoot only in the evacuation site. My intention was to show what the “outside” looked like from the Futaba people’s “window.” But when I noticed them preparing for a temporary return home, I decided to change my thinking and accompany them on their visit. A woman who was visiting the home she had longed for said to herself, “I don’t need to return home anymore.” When I overheard that, I became convinced I had shot something amazing as a documentary filmmaker. That scene shows us how intuition can capture life’s absurdity rising to the surface of images.
(Compiled by Hirai Mona)
Interviewers: Hirai Mona, Masuya Shoko / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Kusunose Kaori / Video: Kusunose Kaori / 2015-10-13