Film | Wide Angle

'Nuclear Nation' offers a long, hard look at Fukushima refugees' plight

by Kaori Shoji

Special To The Japan Times

Feature-length films seemed to get shorter in the early 2000s, with some coming in at a slim 80 minutes or less. Now they’re going the other way, with many mainstream blockbusters clocking in at close to 120 minutes or more.

At the Long Film Theatre, part of the Saitama Triennale, which runs until Dec. 11, the operators are showcasing a collection of hefty titles that add another hour or more to that length, much to the delight of long-film enthusiasts.

The good news: Many of the films have English subtitles. Even if you’re not particularly a fan of long films, a potential must-see is “Nuclear Nation 2016: The Fukushima Refugees Story,” directed by Atsushi Funahashi, which clocks in at 180 minutes and is slated to be shown on Dec. 3 (www.saitamatriennale.jp/event/1826). “Nuclear Nation 2016” re-examines the plight of Fukushima refugees forced to abandon their homes and evacuate from their hometowns after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown disaster triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011.

In the five years since the tsunami and quake of 3/11, many of these refugees have relocated to Tokyo and Saitama, where, for the most part, they moved into government-sponsored rental units. But now the cut-off date for free housing looms, while the contaminated areas in Fukushima remain off-limits.

Many of the refugees are protesting the move, saying that after finding jobs and schools and struggling to fit into new communities, a new move is not only upsetting but unrealistic. Funahashi’s film explores the personal turmoil experienced by former Fukushima residents, and what steps (if any) are being taken to lessen their burden.