Takemitsu Sato has filmed a powerful documentary about the lives of evacuees from the no-entry zone around the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The 63-year-old director had a personal stake in the film, which centers on the hometown where he lived as a child.
Sato attended Futaba Senior High School in Futaba-gun, Fukushima Prefecture, where radioactive cesium levels remain alarmingly high.
He started filming shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake struck northeastern Japan in March 2011.
His subjects, former classmates and acquaintances forced to leave their homes to live in evacuation centers and temporary housing, tell their candid feelings on camera.
The documentary is titled "Tachiiri Kinshi Kuiki Futaba—Saredo Waga Kokyo" (Futaba, the no-entry zone yet our hometown).
It unfolds as Sato, in protective gear, approaches a police checkpoint in his four-wheel drive compact on April 16, about a month after the disaster started at the Fukushima plant.
He says to the police officer at the checkpoint who stops him, "Don't worry, I will take responsibility for what happens."
The documentary, which covers an eight-month period, has scenes of sagging and cracked roads, deserted shopping streets and interviews with more than 30 evacuees.
Veteran actress Etsuko Ichihara is the narrator.
In one scene, Sato accompanies a former classmate who has worked for 25 years at the crippled Fukushima plant and makes daily visits to his home, situated 16 kilometers away.
All power, gas and electricity, has been switched off.
"Nuclear power generation has been a state policy," the power plant worker says, venting his anger in the dark. "Who will take responsibility for the disaster? Is it us local residents who should accept the blame?”
The documentary is the first of the "Futaba, Fukushima" series, a project developed by Sato and 11 local residents who were forced to evacuate.
Masaatsu Amano, 73, who now lives in temporary housing in Koriyama, offers a powerful voice to the documentary.
“I want viewers to see us as we are,” Amano says.
The film also depicts Amano's struggle to organize a residents’ association, which has since broken up, of some 800 Futaba inhabitants who evacuated to a hotel in Inawashiro, in the same prefecture.
Amano, who professes to love Futaba more than anyone else, poignantly tells the camera, "When I think of the country as a whole, I feel (Futaba) must accept the request to be home to the final disposal plant (of contaminated soil and debris).”
Sato, the director, said, "I want the viewers to share the situation Futaba residents were pushed into due to the Fukushima disaster."
The 98-minute documentary will be shown in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward from March 17 and from late March in Osaka.
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