Five years ago Japan was devastated by triple disasters of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear explosion. The Japan Foundation of Sydney is currently holding a series of events and exhibitions to commemorate the anniversary titled After 3.11: Have you met the new Japan?
The centrepiece is a screening of the film Tell the Prime Minister (2015), which documents the rise of the nation’s anti-nuclear protests. This account of how the Japanese population took to the streets to stop nuclear power is an odd mixture of talking heads and citizen journalism, interspersed with stark black and white titles. The interviewees range from an ordinary Fukushima resident to the former Prime Minister, and each has their own unique perspective on the emergence of social activism in the country.
The movie shows the beginning of the movement, with a few anarchists marching on the footpath and reaches a crescendo with overhead shots of over a hundred thousand people chanting “No Restarts” in a government square. It chronicles these waves of demonstrations with contemporaneous footage of the colourful, musical and non confrontational rallies. It also shows the formation of a coalition called MCAN and their meeting with the Prime Minister, which resulted in a major political party promising to close all nuclear reactors by 2030.
Unfortunately the documentary’s focus on the nuclear issue results in it ignoring other possible causes of popular discontent, although some are briefly mentioned. Nonetheless, this is an interesting look at events which defied stereotypes and challenged the shape of democracy in Japan. (LR)
After 3.11 is accompanied by an exhibition, Icons of time: Memories of the tsunami that struck Japan (until Apr 15), featuring Tomohiro Muda’s post-tsunami photography of the shorelines of northeast Japan. The program will also culminate in a talk, 3.11 in Literature and Film (Apr 15, 6.30pm), which gives insights into the latest literary developments in Japan.
Film Screening & Director Q&A: Apr 8, 6.30pm (doors 6pm). University of Technology Sydney, Bldg 2, Lecture Theatre 3.02. Admission free. RSVP essential: jpf.org.au
More info on After 3.11 and associated events: jpf.org.au