I first heard about the documentary 3.11: Suriving Japan through its Kickstarter funding drive. The film is produced by American volunteer and filmmaker Christopher Noland, and is critical of the Japanese government’s response to the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster.
I decided to back the Kickstarter and support the movie because director Christopher Noland’s volunteer work seemed incredibly brave to me. He was in Tokyo during the tsunami and he could have gone back to America or stayed away from events. Instead, he risked higher radiation exposure and injury by volunteering near disaster areas and helping devastated communities while producing the film. I was also impressed with his continued efforts to bring the film to completion and have it shown in theaters.
The movie premiered on 3/11 in San Francisco and the turnout was significantly higher than I expected for an indie film. I asked several of the attendees where they were from and why they decided to come to the premiere. I was told there was an interest in the film because it was produced by an American and there was interest in an American perspective of the disaster. I also discovered many of the attendees lived in Japan and were here in San Francisco on vacation.
After the movie I talked with Jeff, an American expat, and his wife, both pictured above, who told me a story about how they were in America when the tsunami hit. They had the option to stay here, but decided to return to Japan as originally scheduled because it was their home. They described how packed flights from Japan were, and how the plane on their return flight home was almost completely empty.
Overall I enjoyed Surviving Japan. I would suggest the film to anyone interested in a realistic look at the cultural challenges of organizing post-disaster aid and also the Japanese government’s reaction by limiting information on aid benefits to survivors and critical information about radiation risks.