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A Japanese Director Takes on the ‘Nuclear Lobby’

Japanese film director Takafumi Ota needed financing for a film that was critical of the Japanese nuclear industry but found no one was interested in funding his project so he turned to the general public.

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SCRIPT: This Japanese film almost never saw the light of day. “The House of the Rising Sun” tells the story of a family torn apart by a nuclear disaster. A subject so sensitive in Japan that the director found it impossible to finance his project through conventional means. But the groundswell of anti-nuclear feeling following the Fukushima disaster persuaded Takafumi Ota to turn to the public. He raised 100,000 dollars through crowd-sourcing – and the film’s now being screened in independent cinemas.

SOUNDBITE 1 – Takafumi Ota (man), Director of “The house of the rising sun” (Japanese, 16 sec): “The media talks less and less about the problem of nuclear refugees. I asked myself what I could do as a director. I decided to make a film to voice the message that newspapers and televisions don’t.” Three years after the Fukushima disaster and the anti-nuclear demonstrations are waning. The Japanese media barely give them any airtime – even if surveys show most people are still against the industry.

SOUNDBITE 2 -Kazuo (woman), Demonstrator (Japanese, 14 sec): “Japanese people have a tendency to be quite passive. And it’s such a tough fight that many have given up. But we have to keep going!” The pro-nuclear lobby is an impressive foe, whose reach spans many sectors .

SOUNDBITE 3 – Professor Jeff Kingston (man), Temple University (English, 39 sec): “Japanese companies sit at the nexus of the global nuclear industry. Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi. They are part of what Japan calls the nuclear village. Pronuclear advocates in industry, finance, in politics, in academia, in mass media, bureaucracy. These people control the commanding heights of national energy policy and they are not prepared to let the public decide something that important.” Despite the lobby’s power, the government still hasn’t restarted the country’s 50 nuclear reactors, taken offline for safety checks. Japan is one of the only countries in the world to have completely shut down its nuclear energy industry, but many expect it’ll rise up again before too long.

Japan director turns to crowdfunding for anti-nuclear film / Tokyo (Japan) – 30 November 2013 11:19 – AFP / FEATURE Japanese film director Takafumi Ota had a problem. He needed studio financing for a film that was harshly critical of the nuclear industry in the aftermath of Fukushima, but no one was interested in funding his project the traditional way. Large sections of Japan’s movie industry wanted nothing to do with it, and he was told that influential sponsors did not want to be associated with anything that criticised the powerful atomic sector. “It wasn’t only major film distribution companies but also DVD companies — who usually get interested in investing in films to share copyright — who showed no interest in my plan,” said the 52-year-old Ota, whose previous work includes the critically acclaimed 2006 film “Strawberry fields”, which screened at the Cannes International Film Festival. “A senior film director told me ‘Don’t do this. You’ll never be able to make commercial films.'” With few options to make the film, but a groundswell of anti-nuclear feeling in post-Fukushima Japan, Ota turned to the public to make his film in another example of how crowdfunding is changing the face of traditional financing.

The practice sees individuals or firms raise micro-donations from small investors over the Internet. While still small, the market has been booming, with companies such as the pioneering KickStarter offering donation-based funding for creative projects. Globally, the crowdfunding market grew 81 percent last year and was on track to raise $5.1 billion in 2013, with investments in everything from business startups and philanthropic projects to films and music, according to research firm Massolution.

For Ota, raising money through his blog from a public suspicious of the nuclear industry got him the crucial 10 million yen ($100,000) that he needed to make “Asahi No Ataru Ie” (The House of Rising Sun), a film about a family pulled apart by a Fukushima-like nuclear crisis. Each donor was offered the chance to see their name on the credits. “The 10 million yen budget is extremely low for a feature-length film, but actors and other staff got on-board despite low salaries,” Ota said. Careers on the line Among them was Taro Yamamoto, a 39-year-old actor who is a household name in Japan thanks to his appearances in movies, television dramas and on variety shows.

Yamamoto, who became an outspoken lawmaker following last year’s national elections, began campaigning against nuclear power weeks after the nuclear crisis erupted in March 2011, hoping he could use his fame to bring further attention to the issue. But he suddenly found the oxygen of publicity — and the source of his salary — cut off. “Job offers dried up,” Yamamoto said. “Whenever my name was mentioned, sales department people pressured” producers to drop him from a cast, he told AFP. Ota’s film tells the story of a farming family whose lives are turned upside down in a chaotic and badly-managed evacuation after a nuclear accident, where government information is scarce or unreliable.

Yamamoto’s character is a relative who tries to persuade the family to move to Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost island, as they suffer through futile efforts to decontaminate their strawberry fields and one of them develops cancer. It is now being screened at about 10 independent movie theatres and cinema complexes in Japan.

The film taps into the strong feelings of critics who accused the Japanese government and nuclear industry of jointly downplaying the severity of the Fukushima disaster and dragging their heels on releasing information. Like most of Japan, Ota watched in horror as the nuclear crisis unfolded in 2011 after a huge tsunami slammed into the nuclear power plant on the country’s northeast coast.

Three of its reactors went into meltdown, venting a plume of radiation that polluted land, sea and air, with tens of thousands of people living in the area forced to flee. Many are still unable — or unwilling — to return home. The tsunami drowned or swept away 18,000 people, but the nuclear crisis itself is not officially recorded as having directly killed anyone. “In March 2011, when I saw television reports of the tsunami and the developments afterwards, I felt an urge to do something for people in Japan,” Ota said. “What the government said initially — that there is no immediate risk to health — was dubious,” Ota said, echoing a now-common distrust among the public about nuclear power. Yamamoto meanwhile recently caused outrage from the nation’s conservatives by handing a letter to Emperor Akihito during a royal garden party — a breach of protocol — to let the revered royal know directly about the plight of people affected by the Fukushima disaster. The move was lightly reprimanded by the government which called Yamamoto’s behaviour “not appropriate.” But the actor-turned-politician’s future is secure — at least in the short term — while his director is in a more precarious position. “If this film is a success, I’ll be given another chance to work on something related to social issues,” Ota said. “But if it proves to be a commercial disaster, there is no future for me as a film director.” The film’s official website is: END

SHOTLIST: IMAGES FROM “THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN” SOURCE: TAKAFUMI OTA ++NO RESALE FOR NON EDITORIAL PURPOSES++ – People walking towards a nuclear power plant – People in NBC suits crying – Man shouting in gymnasium TOKYO, JAPAN, 15 SEPT 2013. SOURCE: AFPTV – Takafumi Ota greeting spectators in a Tokyo cinema – Spectators – Takafumi Ota – Actors – Spectators clapping for Takafumi Ota SOUNDBITE 1 TOKYO, JAPAN, 29 SEPT 2013. SOURCE: AFPTV – VAR of an anti-nuclear demonstration of about 700 people SOUNDBITE 2 – VAR of demonstrators TOKYO, JAPAN, 22 nov 2013. SOURCE: AFPTV – SETUP shot of Jeff Kingston in his office SOUNDBITE 3 FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR PLANT, JAPAN. 2012. SOURCE: POOL ++NO RESALE FOR NON EDITORIAL PURPOSES++ – Shot of the power plant FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR PLANT, JAPAN. 8 NOV 2013. SOURCE: POOL ++NO RESALE FOR NON EDITORIAL PURPOSES++ – VAR from inside reactor 4 – VAR of reactors 2 and 3 IMAGES FROM “THE HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN.” SOURCE: TAKAFUMI OTA ++NO RESALE FOR NON EDITORIAL PURPOSES++ – Family watching TV – People walking towards the power plant /// ——————————- AFP TEXT STORY:

January 2, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Abe said Fuku is no danger and never was so reporting otherwise is whistleblowing. We all know whistleblowers get hosed whenever possible.
    What’s sad is the whistleblower is the only honest man left.

    Comment by Kirk McLoren | January 2, 2014 | Reply

  2. […] And for those who do try to tell those stories, like independent film-maker Takafumi Ota – they are made to do it alone because the life stories of the brave survivors of this tragedy are seemingly ‘too hot’ for the mainstream film media to handle.  (See ‘House of the Rising Sun) […]

    Pingback by Fukushima: The Psychology of Fear – Part I Denial | Fukushima Miracle | January 24, 2014 | Reply

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