In the summer of 2012, tens of thousands of people gathered around the prime minister’s office with one message — no more nuclear power. People flooded the streets of Tokyo’s Nagatacho district, chanting and holding up signs saying “No Nukes!” in the hope their voices could be heard.
It is a moment historical sociologist Eiji Oguma has captured in his debut documentary film, “Tell the Prime Minister,” which will start screening at Uplink cinema in Shibuya on Sept. 2.
“This movement is extremely important for the modern history of Japan — even the world,” Oguma says. “I had been following the demonstrations and I knew that I wanted to record it someway or another.”
The film documents the fledgling rallies that began to appear soon after the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and traces their growth into a unified protest movement. The footage shows participants from all walks of life marching through the streets dressed in colorful costumes and carrying balloons. Live music fills the air.
“I didn’t think the protests would develop into something like this,” Oguma says. “What attracted me most to this movement was that nothing happened the way I thought it would.”
The documentary shows how people’s lives were ripped apart by the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Young mothers from Fukushima Prefecture stand outside the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nation’s nuclear power industry, tearfully explaining how they live in daily fear of radiation exposure. Oguma interviewed several participants, including a housewife who lived 1.5 km from the plant. Although the woman knows she will never be able to live in her old hometown again, she still dreams of returning.
All of the footage of the protests was provided by the owners free of charge. Oguma surfed online and found about five hours worth of footage he wanted to use, and then edited it down to an hour. Oguma then reached out to the videos’ owners and most happily agreed to let him use their footage. In addition, Oguma and Shunichi Ishizaki, editor of the documentary, conducted their own interviews of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan and activist Misao Redwolf, among others. Oguma, a professor at Keio University, has written many books, but this is the first time he has stepped into the world of film.
“There are some things that are hard to express with words and that is why I wanted to make a film,” Oguma says. “I wanted to create something that showed the beauty of the movement that had come to life.”
Although not as sizable, anti-nuclear protests are still being organized every Friday in Nagatacho. Oguma notes that the March 11 disaster became a turning point for Japan’s protest movement. And today, tens of thousands of people are gathering around Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office to oppose security bills that would enable Japan to change the interpretation of the Constitution to execute collective self-defense.
“A new style of protest was born by coincidence and it is continuing to this day,” Oguma says. “It is a show of the country’s creativity.”
For more details, visit www.uplink.co.jp/kanteimae.