"Himizu" and "Kotoko," two Japanese films that won accolades at the 68th Venice International Film Festival, which wound up Sept. 10, both carry scars from the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The films show how Japanese filmmakers are seeking ways to portray the country after the March 11 disaster.
Teenagers Shota Sometani and Fumi Nikaido, who starred in "Himizu," won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor and actress.
Director Sion Sono, who also wrote the script, added elements inspired by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis to the live-action adaptation of a manga title. He said he had expected to face criticism for being "exploitative." The director changed the story's setting to the disaster-stricken area because he felt Japan was drastically altered after March 11.
"The core of the original manga that came out 10 years ago is the tediousness of endless ordinary life," Sono said. "But 'endless extraordinary life' has become commonplace after the earthquake."
In late May, Sono shot scenes in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the worst-hit areas of the Tohoku region. Mountains of rubble and debris from the earthquake and tsunami were still standing. The images were used at the beginning of the film.
"I can't describe how my acting changed after the earthquake," said Sometani, who performed in the disaster-stricken area. "But I'm sure something has affected me."
For "Himizu," Sono changed his style from his previous works and told of hope after the disaster.
"It's not like we overcame despair, it's like we succumbed to hope," the director said.
Sono said he is working on his next project, which will deal with the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Meanwhile, Shinya Tsukamoto won the festival's Orizzonti Prize for cutting-edge films with his work, "Kotoko."
Singer Cocco plays the title character who loses her mental balance because of her intense love for her baby.
The festival's veteran director wrote the script based on an interview with Cocco, but Tsukamoto says he was also influenced by the disaster.
"There were many mothers around me who were worried about radiation, and I keenly felt their feelings for their children, which were almost compulsive," Tsukamoto said. "There are so many sad things in Japan right now. I'd like to dedicate this film to all the people who have been distressed because of too many worries."
In addition, "663114," an animated short by Isamu Hirabayashi, which was nominated in the Orizzonti short film competition, is about a cicada that is exposed to radiation after it emerges from underground for the first time in 66 years.
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