BERLIN--In the 1970s, disaster films such as "Airport," "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno" were huge commercial hits.
Today, a different genre of disaster films have been well-received at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival, which concluded on Feb. 19.
Four Japanese works focused on the devastation caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
On the second night of the festival, the venue for "Nuclear Nation," directed by Atsushi Funahashi, was filled with heated discussions after the actual screening. In the movie, Funahashi follows the municipality of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture as its residents evacuated en masse to Saitama Prefecture. The movie was followed by a question-and-answer session between Funahashi and the audience.
One participant wanted to know why Japan continues to rely on nuclear energy even though it had experienced the tragedy of atomic bombings during World War II. Another was puzzled by why the lives of the disaster victims had not improved close to a year after the natural disasters. A third participant wanted to know why the mayor of Futaba promoted nuclear energy in the first place.
After the session, Funahashi said, "The audience was very sensitive about the problems that have taken place in Japan."
"Nuclear Nation" was picked to be part of the Forum category by Christoph Terhechte, the Forum director. He expressed surprise that the audience appeared to view the film in terms of how it could possibly affect them.
One reason may be that Germany has made advances in the use of natural energy sources. The German government has pledged to end the nation's reliance on nuclear energy by 2022. The German population has been highly interested in the nuclear energy issue since the Chernobyl accident in 1986.
The three documentaries about the disaster-stricken areas that were shown at the Berlin International Film Festival along with the animation piece directed by Osamu Hirabayashi, titled "663114," which won a special prize, were well-attended.
The three documentaries chosen for viewing in the Forum category were selected from more than 10 that were submitted for consideration.
Terhechte explained that in deciding which films to include in the festival, those that were chosen all had a well-thought-out plan and vision. He said many of the submissions were often nothing more than video footage taken immediately after the disasters struck, without a well-conceived plan.
His view provides insight for future consideration of the many films that have emerged after the natural disasters.
That trend was obvious at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival held in October that had a special section set aside for films about the events of March 11.
In the future, questions will likely arise about what should or should not be included in the films devoted to the disasters and its aftermath.
"No Man's Zone," directed by Toshifumi Fujiwara, was another entry in the Forum category.
"When films of this type are shot, the films should not simply be an instrument to transmit the views of the director," Fujiwara said. "The main star should be the disaster victims and the disaster-stricken areas. It is important for directors to have the proper balance."
The opening section of "No Man's Zone" features scenes of the devastation that hit the seaside town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture. The film also features interviews by the director with victims about how their lives have changed and the emotions they are feeling.
Such methods left a strong impression on the audience in Berlin.
A Spanish journalist living in Berlin who covered the festival said he was interested in learning about the calm thinking and actions taken by the Japanese that he felt from the images of the disaster-stricken areas that were presented as is. He added that movies were an effective medium in meeting the needs from around the world of people who want to know the actual situation faced by the Japanese.
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