Documentary on stubborn tsunami survivor opens next week

Kyodo

A documentary about an elderly man who lost his home to the massive tsunami following the March 2011 earthquake and eventually succeeded in building a new one in the same neighborhood will open Feb. 16 in theaters across Japan.

Directed by Kaoru Ikeya, 54, “Senzo ni Naru” (“Becoming an Ancestor”), has also been invited to be screened at the Berlin International Film Festival this month. The film also carries the English title “Roots.”

Naoshi Sato, 78, lives off farming and forestry in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas hardest hit by the disasters.

While Sato was devastated by the event that destroyed his home and killed his eldest son, he resolved a month later to restore his original life. He started cutting logs with a chain saw and began planting rice in fields leased from a friend.

Against the wishes of his family, Sato refused to move into temporary government housing and continued to live alone in a hut near his former home. The film depicts him achieving his dream little by little, punctuated by humorous moments.

Director Ikeya is known for his previous film, “Ari no Heitai” (“The Ants”) about soldiers who stayed in China after the war.

“As it has been two years since the disaster, I wanted to create a work with a forward-looking and positive theme,” Ikeya said. “I believe viewers will find Mr. Sato’s life in tune with nature, something the Japanese have lost.”

Sato said, “I only did what I thought I had to do, but I will be more than happy if the movie inspires more people to keep their dreams alive and hang on.”