While the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami altered the coastal areas of Fukushima, the memories of what once was are preserved forever, thanks to the foresight of the prefectural government.
Officials asked residents before the March 11 twin disasters last year to submit 8mm home movies so they could be preserved digitally.
Fukushima prefectural government officials have now submitted a short film made from some of that 8mm celluloid for consideration at the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival. The work is titled "Fukushima monochrome: Jidai no naka kara no tegami" (Fukushima monochrome: A letter from the past).
"There is strong interest at Cannes in works with a social message," said Shigeji Maeda, president of Tokyo-based Rakueisha Co., which was in charge of putting together the final footage. "While it is very difficult to have a work accepted, we hope through a viewing at the world's most prestigious film festival that we will be able to gain a foothold for viewings in other nations."
Maeda, 49, was also a producer for "Ichimei (Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai)," which starred the popular Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo and was submitted to the Cannes Film Festival last year.
If his latest submission is accepted, it will be shown in the short films competition at the film festival scheduled to be held in May.
The hope of those involved in the project is that a global audience will view the smiles that were once seen on the residents of Fukushima.
When prefectural government officials asked that residents send in home movies for preservation in digital format, 750 were received, mainly from the 1960s and 1970s. Those 8mm reels illustrate what life was like in the Showa Era (1926-1989).
The quake and tsunami of March 11 struck soon thereafter.
After the disasters, Rakueisha officials decided to change their editing policy.
"Let us make a film that will resonate in the souls of the people of Fukushima and make them happier," one official said.
Clips from the home movies showing such daily events as the "Hina matsuri" doll festival, locals exercising to a radio program and company trips were included in the 15-minute film.
Every scene shows smiling people, and the mood was improved through the warm and light narration provided by Tomio Umezawa, an actor originally from Fukushima.
No scenes from after the twin disasters were included because those involved in the production process wanted viewers to use their imaginations in thinking about the sadness that arose from having lost what is shown in the film.
"Fukushima monochrome: Jidai no naka kara no tegami" was first shown to an audience last November at a film festival in Fukushima. Many of the 400 or so people who viewed the film cried. While some may have done so at the thought of what the disaster took away, others likely were touched by what still remained in their hearts, such as the smiles on the people of Fukushima in the vintage footage.
The film ends with a subtitle that says the smiles are meant to be passed on from the people of Fukushima to the people of the world.
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