Little Voices from Fukushima

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A screening and discussion with director Hitomi Kamanaka

Wednesday, October 7, 7-10 p.m.
The Franke Institute for the Humanities
1100 East 57th Street, Joseph Regenstein Library S-102
Chicago, IL 60637

The event is free and open to the public. No advance registration is required. Refreshments served.

The post-Chernobyl present: Fukushima’s future?

People would rather not acknowledge their own exposure to radiation or the contamination of their environment. They also wish to avoid discrimination. Taking advantage of this psychology, TEPCO and the Japanese government continue to shirk responsibility. I would rather entrust the future of the children caught up in our society’s warped priorities to the mothers who wholeheartedly wish to guard and protect them.

                                                                                                            Hitomi Kamanaka

We are happy to welcome director Hitomi Kamanaka to the University of Chicago for a screening of her newest documentary, Little Voices from Fukushima. This film follows upon her “nuclear trilogy” of Hibakusha at the End of the World(2003), Rokkasho Rhapsody (2006), and Ashes to Honey: Toward a Sustainable Future (2010). In her films, Kamanaka always produces a comparative framework for grasping the problem at hand in Japan: Hibakusha has us travel between post-Persian Gulf War Iraq and Hanford, WA and Hiroshima and Nagasaki;Rokkasho takes us to a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture and Sellafield, UK; Ashes links the fishing-farming community resisting the siting of a nuclear power plant on tiny Iwaishima Island with Swedish communities relying on renewable fuels. 

Little Voices (2015, 119 minutes) follows in this tradition by shuttling between post-Chernobyl communities in Belarus and a community that have elected to stay in Fukushima, organized around a temple. A striking feature of this film is that the people who appear, whether Fukushima or Chernobyl related, are overwhelmingly female. Asked about this in an illuminating interview in Kyoto Journal, Kamanaka replies,

My film is almost complete, so I’ve had several screenings—for my staff and some outside people. Afterwards, they said, “Only women! Where are the fathers? Where are the men? You cut away the men. Did you cut away men?” It wasn’t my intention, but it did happen; I focused on this issue, and only women appeared.

After the disaster in Fukushima, many mothers wanted to escape radiation and they asked their husbands to leave, but almost 100% of these husbands said, “What are you talking about? The government says it’s safe. Why do we need to move? We have work. I have business here. I work and that’s how you survive.” Many mothers escaped without their husbands and this is another subject of my film. In Japanese we now call this boshi-hinan or “mothers and children escaping.” It’s a new word in Japanese.

For an eight-minute trailer of this film, please see here. For more information on Kamanaka, please see here.

The Franke Institute for the Humanities is on the first floor of Regenstein Library, on the southeast corner and an easy walk from either 57th or 56th Street between University and Ellis (for parking). See here for a map.

This event is sponsored by the Committee on Japanese Studies, Center for East Asian Studies; the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies; the Franke Institute for the Humanities; and the Program on the Global Environment at the University of Chicago.

Persons with a disability who believe they need assistance are requested to call 773-702-8274 in advance.

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