Where will you be on March 11?
A year after the day that altered life in Japan as we knew it, Fuji Television Network is launching a project in collaboration with Scott Free Productions — the British film production company run by “Alien”/”Blade Runner” director Ridley Scott — called “Japan in a Day.”
This is the second of such productions from Scott, who executive-produced 2011’s widely acclaimed “Life in a Day,” a crowd-sourced documentary that attracted over 80,000 submissions from around the globe. Participants were invited to film their activities on a specific day of the year and submit them, with the results showing the diversity of daily life on Earth.
Now Fuji Television hopes to repeat the magic by inviting submissions from Japan and the rest of the world on March 11, the anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The only rules are that filming must be done between midnight and 11:59 p.m. on March 11, and that participants be over 13 years of age (anyone under 20 will require written parental permission).
Speaking about the project, Scott — currently also working on “Alien” spinoff “Prometheus” — gave the following comment: “We hope to see the here and now of people living in Japan, and to know these peoples’ dreams, hopes and fears in their day-to-day lives.”
Working directly with Scott Free Productions, the man who instigated the project is Fuji Television’s chief producer Takayuki Hayakawa, who himself is from Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. Hayakawa is a veteran in the documentary field, first at NHK and then signing on with Fuji in 2010.
“I lost so many friends in the quake and tsunami,” Hayakawa tells The Japan Times. “Last year was the year that I kept asking myself, ‘What is possible for me? What is within my power to do?’ And I’m by no means the only one: So many people felt the same way.
“This project is a way of sharing all that, and seeing everyone’s own thoughts, hopes and memories of 3/11. I also wanted to know how everyone will spend the day, how and with whom. I felt that this was a vital question.”
Japan’s official kanji of 2011 was kizuna (“bonds”), and early media buzz says one of the contender kanji for this year will be ai (“love”). Both these concepts will be needed in abundance. According to a government-sponsored poll taken last month, the majority of Japanese in the Kanto and Tohoku regions have said they are dismayed and disconcerted by the towering pile of problems that continue to stare the northeast down and hamper recovery efforts.
But “the news isn’t all bad,” says independent documentary filmmaker Yuichi Kuramoto. He has been working on a film about post-3/11 Japan and how the Japanese psyche has changed, largely for the better. He welcomes the news of the “Japan in a Day” project and is considering making a submission.
“I want to stress that the Japanese have generally become more open and frank,” he says. “People have become easier to reach and easier to talk to. It’s like a lot of people now have a desire to connect with others, and to stay connected.”
Scott is calling this “a love letter from Fuji Television to Japan,” and he’s probably right. Fuji Television says that by its very nature, the project will most likely invite positive and hopeful stories over tragic and painful memories.
“This is a social movie project, which echoes the SNS boom we’re seeing in the nation at this time,” says Hayakawa. “And within the context of a social network, people tend to want to share positive feelings.”
In a nation that doesn’t want for personal cameras, will this project change the way people perceive movies? “I can see a lot of people filming their daily lives on phones and cameras,” considers executive managing director Chihiro Kameyama. “But I don’t think this will affect the film industry per se. On the other hand, it’s an honor to witness fragments of peoples’ lives in this way, and to bring everything together into one grand work. The important thing is to turn this project into a social movement.”
The completed “Japan in a Day” film will be released later this year (date to be announced) and will open in Japan before going overseas. Fuji Television says it is also considering entry into competitions on the international film-festival circuit.
Fuji Television is no amateur when it comes to filmmaking: It has made and released some of the most popular domestic films of the last decade (“Odoru Daisosasen the Movie 2 [Bayside Shakedown 2],” anyone?) and has groomed young upstart directors such as Shinobu Yaguchi (“Waterboys”) to full-fledged stardom. Serious documentaries however, have never been its forte, and some in the media feel “Japan in a Day” is Fuji’s bid to promote a more mature and dignified image.
“Fuji Television has this image of being great at comedy and variety shows,” says filmmaker Kuramoto. “For better or worse, the network has made Japanese comedy what it is today. But maybe it’s ready for something different, something more meaningful.”
Fuji Television will accept submissions from March 11 through March 25. For details of how to get involved, visit www.fujitv.co.jp/japaninaday or the English-language page at www.youtube.com/JapanInADay.