Protests take on many forms. Some chant in front of the seats of power; others march. But another way to protest is to invite people into your living room to watch movies.
That’s what Akiko Uematsu and her neighbors in the Yanaka district of Tokyo’s Taito Ward have done. Hoping for a referendum on the Japanese government’s nuclear energy policy, Uematsu and other members of the group Chiiki Kara Mirai wo Tsukuru (Make the future happen from your neighborhood) have been gathering signatures since December to present to their Diet representatives.
They had canvassed in front of train stations and supermarkets in the ward until they came up with the idea of at-home screenings in May.
“At first we thought of reserving a conference room at the community center. The work we originally wanted to screen would have drawn mixed opinions, but the setting itself would have been very flat,” says Uematsu, a freelance editor. Instead, they decided to open Yanaka no Iie (“Yanaka house”)--more precisely the home of member Naoko Nishimura--to monthly screenings followed by issue-related discussions over wine and coffee.
The third offering for the “Monthly Nuclear Film Festival,” as they call it, is the German-language documentary “Das Schonauer Gefuhl” (Thoughts of Shonau: The Story of German Citizens who Inspired the Electricity Revolution), subtitled in Japanese. The screening will be held on July 7 from 6 p.m.
The 2008 work tells the story of activists who, in response to the Chernobyl disaster, lobby their town to completely unplug from nuclear power and eventually set up a utility of its own.
The film should be a lesson for anti-nuclear activists in Japan, says Uematsu. Yet she herself hasn’t seen a level of determination in Japan that matches that of her German counterparts.
It’s not just politicians in office who are reluctant to take a stand against the status quo, says Uematsu, but also those who put their names on the referendum campaign. Gathering signatures is no simple matter, according to Uematsu, because signers have to be persuaded to present their personal “hanko” stamps used for official documents and bank transactions. It’s not an item most people casually carry around.
“Even if someone does give his or her name, they’re adverse to actually meeting their representatives face to face," she says. "Most have other issues to think about and don’t want to go out of their way to be confrontational.”
Living room screenings are one way to build neighborly bonds first before trying to budge the world, explains Uematsu.
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