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New film shows Japan the story of Japanese fishermen exposed to 1954 nuclear bomb test

U.S. film shines light on Japan boat crew exposed to 1954 nuke test, By Miya Tanaka, KYODO NEWS – Mar 14, 2019 – For many Americans, the story of the Japanese fishing crew who were exposed to a U.S. hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean 65 years ago may be a footnote in history easy to overlook.

But Keith Reimink, a 40-year-old American documentary filmmaker, reacted differently when he came across in 2014 a tiny paragraph mentioning the incident in a nearly 500-page book criticizing the U.S. management of nuclear weapons.

Little was mentioned except for the fact that the 23 Japanese men aboard the tuna fishing vessel Fukuryu Maru No. 5 suffered radiation poisoning and that one of them died. But the Pittsburgh-based movie director was intrigued, and by the end of the year, his group was already in Japan to film interviews with three of the former fishermen.

Four years on, Reimink’s indie film company released last September in the United States a 75-minute documentary called “Day of the Western Sunrise” that depicts the horror of nuclear weapons through the vivid accounts of the fishermen and flashbacks of the incident presented as animation.

“The vast majority of Americans have not heard about any suffering related to nuclear tests after World War II ended…People need to learn about the legacy of nuclear testing in America so that it doesn’t happen again,” Reimink, who made his debut as a film director in 2012, told Kyodo News when he recently came to Japan for the film’s first public screening in the country……….

The film opens by noting that most people believe that Japan’s experience of nuclear weapons ended with the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

But another tragedy occurred on March 1, 1954, when the United States conducted its largest-ever nuclear weapons test, code-named Castle Bravo, at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The explosion brought higher levels of fallout than predicted, contaminating the islands and boats sailing in the vicinity.

The three former Fukuryu Maru members recall in the film the moment of the blast that forever changed their lives. As a flash lit up the western sky, one of them shouted, “The sun rises in the west!”

A total of 22 crew members survived the initial illness, but further hardships awaited them. They were shunned by the local community amid rumors that radiation sickness was communicable, sometimes rejected when seeking marriage partners and haunted by fears that the exposure might still affect their health and their offspring as well.

Matashichi Oishi, 85, who has been the most active among the survivors in recounting his experiences in public, talks in the film about his first child being stillborn and deformed, which he kept a secret for a long time. “It could happen to anyone who is exposed to radiation,” he warns………

The footage revealed “personal and intimate” accounts of the fishermen, leading Reimink to think that the film should be “a Japanese story” and that there is “no room for an American opinion.”

As well as insisting on the narrator speaking in Japanese against the advice of many people, Reimink adopted an animation style inspired by Japanese traditional “kamishibai” storytelling that combines hand-drawn visuals with engaging narration.

The use of animation did not just help keep the production cost low, compared with using expensive archival footage, but is also expected to increase the educational potential for children of all ages, including for those who may be too small to understand the whole story but still are able to engage with the pictures……… https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2019/03/d05edfdbdf5b-feature-us-film-shines-light-on-japan-boat-crew-exposed-to-1954-nuke-test.html

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March 16, 2019 - Posted by | Resources -audiovicual

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