Directed by Atsushi Funahashi
Official Selection, 2012 Berlin International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2012 Hong Kong International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2012 Edinburgh International Film Festival
Amongst the first images in NUCLEAR NATION is a sign leading to a disaster relocation center that reads, “Media personnel not permitted beyond this point.” Somehow though Atsushi Funahashi’s camera makes it in: not just into sites of extraordinary destruction, but into the everyday worlds of Fukushima evacuees now inhabiting high schools partitioned into makeshift living quarters. What he finds isn’t the expected sentimentality of loss or the furor against the government. Sure, it’s moving to watch and the anger is real. But what sets NUCLEAR NATION ahead of the increasingly-crowded pack of Fukushima documentaries is its commitment to capturing a new reality: watching TV, listening to music, and drinking sake, because there’s nowhere to go. These everyday moments make the extraordinary ones all the more impressive. And when family members and homes are lost, it’s hard to avoid the extraordinary, even though everyone just wants to get back to normalcy.
For the mayor of Futaba, normalcy becomes an existential crisis. He is amongst the many subjects of the film, followed for months after the disasters. He explains the bargain his city entered to become networked into a “nuclear nation,” and how the normalcy he misses was the result of a radioactive pact. We also meet men who worked in the nuclear reactors. We gain access to council meetings of mayors who run “nuclear cities.” Funahashi’s access is impressive and targeted without ever being imposingly ideological. There are just so many images and sounds still to uncover – the makeshift official signs written on paper and posted with masking tape, the sounds of a brass band playing an oldie for evacuees – that to do anything but simply watch and listen to the aftermath is the worst denial. –Brian Hu